How can signatures be collected?
All signature collection must be polite, in other words without harassing anyone or being disruptive.
For a printed version, click here.
Where can signatures for petition initiatives be collected?
The right to collect signatures refers to standing and carrying a petition, not to sitting at a table to collect signatures. Tabling requires permission to set up a table for signature collection.
While petitioning in public spaces, bring the linked documents below with you to prove you have the right to petition to any who ask. Courts have ruled that the following spaces are ‘public forums’ with the right to freedom of speech:
- Public sidewalks
- The city or town may not ban signature collection on public sidewalks or require a permit.
- Parks and similar open public spaces
- You can petition in any public area of the park and you do not need a permit when it is open – the only restricted area allowed are those reserved for private functions.
- Public buildings
- Signatures can be solicited in areas open to everyone like hallways, but not offices.
- Signatures must not interfere with business.
- Petitions cannot be left unattended in public buildings – this is illegal use of public resources for political advocacy.
- During festivals
- You may seek petition signatures from people coming to or leaving the festival by standing on public sidewalks, on streets closed to traffic and in public parks outside the area reserved for the public festival. In certain cases, petitioners may be allowed inside – see here for details.
- In libraries, signature solicitation is permitted provided there is no interference with patrons, staff, or normal library operations – an entry room or walkway may be appropriate if done quietly.
- Petitions may not be left in a library, as it can be construed as using public funds to support political advocacy.
- Door-to-door in most cases
- Door-to-door is allowed as long as money is not being solicited and the area is not protected by a ‘no soliciting’ sign or a private gated community.
- In your home or yard
- Throw a party!
- Feel free to mention this petition to your friends, so that they can sign your petition or get a petition of their own.
- If your home is near a parade route or voter polling location, use your yard for signs etc. However, in Massachusetts you cannot campaign within 150 feet of a polling location during the election.
- Public common areas of shopping centers usually require advance scheduling
- A shopping center must have more than one business located inside, such as a mall.
- Courts have ruled that a shopping center may require scheduling a time, identification of parties gathering signatures, and require use a specific area for solicitation of signatures.
- Stop & Shop and many grocery stores allow gathering signatures, but time must be scheduled at the information desk. The store may have a table and chairs for your use, or allow you to bring chairs or a table.
Note: You CANNOT petition or campaign (signs, buttons, etc.) within 150 feet of election voter polling places or their entry doors in Massachusetts.