POLYAS Election Glossary

We provide explanations and background information on elections, voting rights and digital democracy


A petition is a formal request for action written to a governmental authority or individual public office holder. Petitions usually relate to a single political issue and originate from one or multiple concerned members of the public. These members seek to gain signatures from others to endorse their position on the issue at hand. It is a means for the general public to participate politically by seeking to influence the government of the day by mobilizing mass democratic support for a particular policy.

In the UK, petitions submitted to parliament with a certain amount of signatures will elicit a response from the government. If a petition achieves more than 10,000 signatures, the government will provide a statement in response to it. If the petition gains more than 100,000 signatures then it will be considered for debate in parliament. For example, one petition which stated “make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work” garnered the support of 152,420 signatures and was subsequently debated in parliament.

The UK and US government are some of the first governments to digitalize their petitions process, here you can read all of the current petitions in the UK and the USA that are gathering signatures and responses from the relevant government departments.

There are also numerous petition websites that help gather signatures, both locally and worldwide. Here are a few of the most notable ones:


See also: Branches of Government, Parliamentary Sovereignty, US Congress

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