Broadly speaking, a petition is an appeal for the redress of grievances sent to an authority, often a government. The right to petition the government is a constitutional right in most modern democracies.
Problems and Purpose
By petitioning a government, an individual often seeks to influence the decisions of policy makers or to bring an issue of public concern to the attention of government officials. It is perhaps the most direct form of citizen participation in policy making and certainly the oldest.
The right to representation is at the foundation of liberal democracy. Petitions are thus one of the most important ways citizens have to make their voices heard and their desires known. While elections give citizens a say over who will represent them in government, petitions ensure what representatives do aligns with those constituents' interests. While the ability to vote an official out of office gives citizens some measure of control, elections are held infrequently, often every four to five years. Petitions may be submitted at any time, thus giving citizens a relatively unrestricted channel of voice and agency.
Origins and Development
The petition was first recognized in the Magna Carta (1215).
How it Works
Analysis and Lessons Learned
 ed. Marleau, Robert and Montpetit, Camille. Public Petitions. House of Commons Canada Procedure and Practice. Retrieved from http://www.ourcommons.ca/MarleauMontpetit/DocumentViewer.aspx?Language=E...