They always catch you as you’re walking out of the grocery store. It seems like a good idea in theory; people need food. But the plan fails because most people are in a rush and those who do stop, do so out of some sense of obligation to listen to the solicitor’s pitch.
Now I’m all for people being encouraged to participate in the civic process. The only problem is that the average citizen is not informed enough to make snap judgments about politics – let alone legislation – as they walk into or out of the grocery store. Combine lack of information with the fact that signing these petitions is one of the places that our voting power is real, and you have a recipe for disaster.
When I think about the last few voting cycles and the proposed legislation, and how when I read the text and analysis, most of these proposed bills were very poorly writen. They often focus on some lofty idea, but when it comes to planning, implementation and fiscal cost, the initiatives are seriously lacking.
And how do these bills end up on the ballot? Because people sign while rushing out of the store. Having done no real research, and only reading the tiny summary presented on the petition. It’s sad that one of our most powerful political decisions is, more often than not, made in ignorance. Then we wonder why…
I don’t sign because I know that at the time of presentation, I usually don’t have the information to make such an important and simple decision. I want to make sure that I use my power wisely, and wish others would be equally prudent.
Next time you’re walking out of the grocery store and someone asks you to sign a petition, pleading with you to perform your civic duty…Before making a decision you don’t fully understand, just write down the name of the bill and go look it up. The solicitor won’t get his commision for your signature, but if you should decide to sign later, you rest assured knowing that you are truly an informed voter.
very smart view on it!
it can be a good thing regardless of one’s knowledge of the subject though. Penn & Teller went to an Environmental Concert and actually got over a thousand people to sign a petition to ban “dihydrogen monoxide” as it’s so widespread that it covers about 80% of the planet. Personally though, i like water…
not to mention, on a slightly different note, some of those “organizations” that are at the grocery stores trying to “help out” or “raise funds” are TOTAL scams!
Very good point. We have had years of politics of fear and propoganda, part of the process of changing that is becoming educated as an electorate. “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself” has never been more true…
One of the hazards of signing petitions is the abundance of dummy or decoy initiatives. For instance, an initiative for “insurance reform” may actually be sponsored by insurance companies and be designed to thwart an actual insurance reform initiative.One can find oneself signing up for some really evil shit if one is not informed.
Very nicely written. 🙂
For one, I’m very glad that I live in a state that doesn’t have citizen ballot initiatives. At first glance they seem like the ultimate expression of democracy, but as you point out, they are often poorly thought out, poorly written, and fiscally irresponsible. I do believe that legislation should be drafted by those who know how to draft legislation, who have paid staff to work on drafts of legislation, and who have committees to review and vote on proposed legislation. People who are rushing out of a supermarket are hardly informed citizens and their signatures are worth less than the ink it takes to write them. Just because 40,000 people sign a petition hardly means that the proposed legislation is worth any consideration; it only means that signature collectors met their quota and paid their commission.
I read someone making a throwaway comment about petitions in one of our Sunday papers – along the lines that filling in a petition is the laziest way to make a difference. They questioned whether signing your name on a piece of paper whilst being harangued on the way out of a shop is really relevant.
What about protests and making meaningful gestures? People are maybe too busy these days to commit to such actions, but by the same token, a petition is as easy to ignore as it is to sign.