Skip to main content

Petitioning your Government

The right of petition was enumerated in the Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776). Prior to this the citizens' repeated petitions to the King of England had been ignored. Later, the declarations of rights of the newly formed states of Pennsylvania (1776), North Carolina (1776), Massachusetts (1790), and New Hampshire (1784) included guarantees for peaceable assembly and petition. The Delaware Declaration of Rights (1776) and Maryland's Declaration of Rights (1776) expressly protected the right of petition. 

The freedom of petition is the right to ask your government to do something or to refrain from doing something. The freedom of petition gives you the right to write to your elected representatives and request him/her to work for the passage of laws you favor, or it could be as detailed as a statewide petition seeking the passage of new laws. The right of petition also helps government officials to know what citizens think and what actions they want the government to take.

Under the right of petition, individuals and groups of citizens may seek a new law (initiative process) or seek to overturn a law (referendum process). There are different requirements depending on the type of petition. Our office is the filing officer for countywide, school district and special district petitions. The Secretary of State is the filing office for statewide petitions while your local city clerk is the filing office for local petitions. Recall petitions have different requirements than initiative and referendum petitions.