The Ultimate Guide to Collecting Signatures for Citizen Ballot Initiatives
Updated: Nov 3
Are you interested in making a difference in your community? One of the most impactful ways to do so is by collecting signatures for a ballot initiative. Ballot initiatives allow citizens to propose laws and constitutional amendments and get them on the ballot for voters to decide on. In South Dakota, a recent Mason-Dixon poll found that 65% of voters want to put Roe v. Wade on the ballot and let the people decide. If you're interested in collecting signatures for this initiative, or any other initiative, we've put together some best practices to help you get started.
1. Know the Petition
The first step to collecting signatures is understanding the petition. The Initiated Constitutional Amendment Petition to put Roe v. Wade on the ballot is double-sided on standard white 8.5x11 in paper. Each sheet contains the attorney general explanation, amendment text, and ten total signature boxes to record each voter's personal signature, printed name, resident address (where they live), county of registration (where they vote), and date of signing.
It's essential to take good care of every sheet! The Secretary of State can disqualify your signatures if the document is damaged. The best circulators avoid these errors by keeping their completed petitions in a separate folder.
2. Know the Requirements for Signers
The signer must be a registered voter in the state of South Dakota. You can verify a signer's voter registration via the South Dakota Secretary of State's registration tool. The signer must sign their name as they are registered to vote or as they usually sign their names. The signer's printed name must also appear. Signers must also print their resident address (e.g. where they live currently). Signers must also print their county of registration (e.g. the county where they are currently registered to vote). The signer must use a pen. Black or blue ink only!
Here is an example of a correctly completed signature line:
All six boxes of a signature line must be completed and legible. If all the information for those six boxes is included, but a signer wrote the information in the wrong box, that is acceptable. Example: A signer prints his/her name in the signature box and signs his/her name in the printed box.
3. Know the Requirements for Circulators
The circulator must be at least 18 years of age. The circulator must have lived in South Dakota for at least 30 days. The circulator must not be a registered sex offender. The circulator must use a black or blue ink pen on the petition. The circulator must personally witness every signature that is added to their petition sheets. The circulator must verbally confirm with every signer that they are a registered South Dakota voter. The circulator must offer signers a copy of the state-approved Volunteer Handout. The circulator must verify each petition with a South Dakota notary public. No exceptions!
4. Know the Requirements for Notarizing a Petition
Verifying your petition with a notary public is a crucial step in the signature collection process. It is required by law to ensure the validity and authenticity of the signatures you have collected. Here are the steps you need to follow to verify your petition with a notary public:The petition's verification must be completed following circulation.
Complete the petition: Before you can verify your petition with a notary public, you must ensure that the petition is complete and accurate. Each petition must include the circulator's printed name, residence address, city, state, complete date (including month, day, and year), and signature. Make sure that all of the information is legible and accurate to avoid any issues with the verification process.
Complete the verification after circulation: The verification process must be completed after the circulation of the petition has ended. This means that you cannot have the petition notarized before you have collected all of the necessary signatures. You must wait until the petition is complete before verifying it with a notary public.
Find a South Dakota notary public: Once the petition is complete, you will need to find a South Dakota notary public to verify it. You can find a notary public at your bank, local government office, or directly through us by emailing email@example.com.
Sign the petition under oath: When you meet with the notary public, you will need to sign the petition under oath. This means that you will swear that the information on the petition is accurate and true to the best of your knowledge. The notary public will then sign and stamp the petition to indicate that it has been verified.
Submit the petition: Once the petition has been verified by a notary public, it is ready to be submitted to Dakotans for Health via priority mail to PO Box 2063, Sioux Falls, SD 57101. We also host weekly events around the state that where you can turn-in and notarize your petitions.
Here is an example of a petition that has been signed by the circulator and verified by a notary public:
By following these steps and verifying your petition with a notary public, you can ensure that your signatures are valid and that your petition will be accepted by the authorities. Make sure that you take this step seriously and follow all of the necessary procedures to avoid any issues with the verification process.
5. Strategies to Find Signatures
Collecting signatures is not always easy. It requires a lot of hard work, patience, and persistence. But with the right strategies, you can maximize your time and effort to collect as many signatures as possible. Here are a few effective strategies for signature collection:
Take your petition with you everywhere you go. To the coffee shop. To the bank. To your kids' soccer game. Sunday brunch with friends. Holiday party circuit. The grocery store. Just think of how many people you come across in a given day? These are all opportunities to collect signatures. Take advantage of them! To give you an example, last April, one of our volunteers took their petition with them every time they went to get coffee for a month (3-5 times a week). In 30 days they collected over 80 signatures, at a minimal disruption to their daily routine as they were already going to get the coffee.
Watch the Weather. Especially in winter and spring. There are more people out and about on nice weather days. Our best circulators use weather.com to keep an eye on the 7-day forecast and plan their signature collecting accordingly. This was a big part of our strategy last winter when we collected over 10,000 signatures between 12/1 and 2/1. Signature totals increase from 100% to 300% on days over 36 °F. It's important to keep in mind the weather conditions to ensure you are maximizing your time collecting signatures.
Community events are a great place to get signatures. There are events happening every day of the week in your community. Soccer games, flea markets, farmers markets, expos, parades, festivals, concerts, beer tastings. These are all opportunities to collect signatures. To find events happening near you, we like to use Google Events. There are other ways to find potential events. DTSF has a great events page that we use to research signature collection opportunities for central Sioux Falls. For example, the St. Patrick's Day Parade. There will be over 10,000 people in downtown Sioux Falls, including THOUSANDS OF REGISTERED VOTERS. This is the perfect opportunity to hit the streets with your petition!
Stick to the Script. Your goal is to get the signature, not win the argument. Lengthy discussions and debates distract from that. So stick to the script. It is that simple. Ask:
Are you a registered South Dakota voter?
Will you sign our petition to put Roe v. Wade on the ballot?
We are just trying to get it on the ballot so the people can decide. Signing doesn't mean you have to vote for it.
Practice Civility. Remember to channel the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and keep your cool if anti-choice activists try to bully and intimidate you. We will win this fight by appealing to the hearts and minds of South Dakota voters.
Finally, after you have secured the signature, you can engage in further discussions if you like. Then move on. We have 60,000 signatures to collect!
In conclusion, collecting signatures is a vital part of the democratic process. It's the first step in getting an initiative on the ballot and allowing the people to decide on important issues. By following these strategies and putting in the hard work, you can help ensure that South Dakota voters have a say in important issues like Roe v. Wade. Remember to be persistent, patient, and stay focused on the goal of collecting as many valid signatures as possible.
7. Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a limit to the number of petitions I can collect?
No. Each petition sheet is assigned to a single circulator. There is no limit on the number of petitions that a circulator may use. The circulator does not need to fill all ten signature lines in the petition.
Can I sign my own petition?
No. Circulators CANNOT SIGN THEIR OWN PETITION. However, they can sign another circulator's petition.
What if the signer makes a mistake? Should we start over on a new line?
Yes. If the signer makes a mistake, tell them to start again on a new signature line. After that, draw a horizontal straight line through each row on the original signature line that contains mistakes. Here is an example:
Can I use a PO Box as my resident address?
If the signer is a resident of a second- or third-class municipality, which are those with less than 5,000 populations, a PO Box may be used for the residence address.
Can we use abbreviations?
Abbreviations of common usage may be used. Ditto marks may not be used at any time.
Where can I find a notary public?
If you are in Sioux Falls our preference is that you notarize with us. We will be available every Saturday at DaDa Gastropub from 10am-1pm. We will also be opening up an office later this year.
In the meantime, if you need to find a notary outside of our office hours please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. She will help you find a notary in your area.
Can I sign the petition twice?
What are the state approved handouts?
They are official copies of the SD Attorney General Statement on the ballot measure that have been approved by the SD Secretary of State. You must provide a copy of the state approved handout to signers. You can find them all on the SD Secretary of State website.
Does the Secretary of State have a document detailing the rules collecting signatures for ballot measures?
8. Make a donation to help put Roe v. Wade on the ballot!
Note: if you have saved your information with ActBlue Express your donation will go through immediately!
Note: You can make checks payable to 'Dakotans for Health' PO Box 2063, Sioux Falls, SD 57101.