The vague nature of U.S. petition laws means petitioning is allowed but federally unregulated. Each agency that can be petitioned has specific requirements and preferences for petitions it receives. The most important step in filing a petition is preparing yourself or the body you are representing by researching the specific agency to find out its specific petition requirements.
If you are petitioning a court, learn the specific rules for filing a petition with the individual state or with the particular level of governing body. Different courts have different requirements. In general, it is not permissible to petition a court if a ruling is in your favor, even if you continue to disagree with some portion of the ruling.
Next, find out if there are specific formats of petitions that are accepted over others. Some agencies accept oral petitions collected online, some accept electronic petitions, and some will only accept original, handwritten petitions with ample supporting documentation. Petitions are often addressed to a specific government figure or body, so be sure to correctly address the petition. Also, while not required by all agencies, always include a title for the petition.
Many times, petitions must be either mailed or hand-delivered. Most agencies do not allow petitions to be received by fax or e-mail. If filing a petition electronically, check the requirements for the specific government agency. Many times, agencies will require a specific number of original signatures to be provided on a hard copy, although the petition is filed electronically.
In addition, some agencies allow petitioners to turn in an unofficial copy of the petition for review. Find out if this is possible and, if it is, be sure to utilize this helpful step. The best way to successfully file a petition is to have a knowledgeable member of the agency review a draft of the petition beforehand. This step could help to avoid simple technical issues or formal formatting requirements that would prevent certification.
Depending on the type of petition you wish to file, find out what background information is required from supporters of the petition. Complete this step before the collection process for the petition. By doing so, you can be sure to collect all necessary documentation for or from the supporters or signers of the petition. For example, filing a petition regarding an item on a ballot may require voter registration documentation for anyone involved.
Lastly, be sure to explore any possible deadlines that will be in effect for your petition. A court petition may have a limited time period in which you can file a petition following a ruling. When filing a petition related to a voting issue, there will likely be a deadline far before the day of the vote.