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Checklist for Gathering Signatures

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  • Only the signatures of registered voters are valid, others don’t count. (The voter may fill in a registration card and sign the petition on the same day.)
  • Collect only signatures from one city or town on any given petition page (print the name of that city or town in the space at the bottom). Signatures from another city or town must be written on a different petition form designated for that city or town.
  • Collect only signatures from one State Rep or State Senate district on any given petition page.
    • Be sure you know the exact boundaries of the district you are collecting for before you go out. Check our Targeted Districts list if necessary.
    • A district might contain some complete towns and some partial towns. For the partial towns, you'll need a map or street list in order to find out whether a given voter's address is in your district!
    • Using a laptop or smartphone, you can also go to to find out which district a given address is in. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom where it says "New District Information".
  • In order for a signature to be certified, the signature must be legible and signed in person, substantially as registered. In the space next to the signature must be written or, preferably, PRINTED the complete address where the voter is registered. A signature will be certified if it can reasonably be identified as that of a registered voter.
  • All signatures must be legible and signed substantially as registered, which means:
    • If the registrars can determine the identity of the voter from the signature, you’re ok. But it is wise to ask the person to print their last name in the same space as they signed since many signatures are illegible. Make sure their printed name does not run into the space designated for their street address.
    • The voter can insert or omit a middle name or initial and still have the signature deemed valid.
    • Voters should sign their own first and last names. For example: Helen Jones should not sign as "Mrs. John Jones."
    • Optional: It might help to have a list of registered voters or a street listing with you to verify the exact form of registration.
    • Ballot question petitions require the voter’s address where he or she is currently registered, not necessarily where they currently live.
    • If a voter signs incorrectly or makes an error, do not erase or make changes. Leave the incorrect line intact and ask the voter to sign his or her name and address again on the next line. An altered or illegible signature may be disallowed or challenged.
    • Persons who are prevented from signing by physical disability may authorize another individual to sign for them in the voter’s presence.
    • No person may sign for another unless the voter is physically disabled. One spouse may not sign for another.
  • DO NOT place any extra marks on the petitions.
    • DO NOT place a return address -- handwritten, stamped or printed -- on the petitions.
    • DO NOT underline, highlight, or mark any words, information or area on the petition, especially the summary.
    • DO NOT number the petitions.
    • DO NOT put the name, initials, or telephone number of the signature gatherer on the petition. The line at the top of the petition that says “name” is for the name of the state senator or representative district for which you are collecting signatures (e.g. 27th Middlesex). Do not write any other name on that line. If you are not positive of the name of the district, leave the line blank and the coordinator for that district can fill it in later.
    • DO NOT make any marks to count or delineate the number of signatures gathered.
    • DO have scratch paper available when gathering signatures to test pens.

Any extraneous markings on a petition sheet will result in invalidation of ALL the signatures contained on it. So it might be wise to start a new petition form after you get 20 or so signatures so that all signatures will not be lost if that particular petition form gets any extraneous markings on it after you fill the sheet with signatures.

For more info, read the Secretary of the Commonwealth's Checklist for Gathering Signatures.