On Friday, April 4 the State of Florida officially opened up online petitions to help us keep our social distancing and ensure everyone is safe during Coronavirus. As of Friday, April 10, the state of Florida has officially allowed digital signatures using forms like what we outline below.
This creates an incredible opportunity for campaigns willing to move fast to get petitions digitally while helping get the word out on their race. But the time is short, you have until May 11 to get the petitions you need.
So how do you do it? What technology is there out there to help candidates get there? What are best practices? How can I get the word out on this?
At Statecraft Digital we’ve tried tons of different options and have settled on what we think works the best, and have collected thousands of petitions using this method. We’ve tried lots of variations and am happy to help your campaign learn from what we’ve found.
So let’s get started:
1.) Sign up for a Jotform Account
We’ve tried out a bunch of different software for the petition gathering and found JotForm to be the best of what we’ve tried. It’s free to try for up to 100 petitions, but you’ll quickly want to upgrade to the paid plan at $19 per month. What we like about it is how easy it is to use on mobile and that signatures have to be done manually, there’s no text writing substitute for the signature. This is important because the signature has to match what the Supervisor of Elections has on file or it will be rejected.
2.) Create Your Fillable Form
The easiest way to get people to fill out their form online is to enter the information that is going to be standard for all your voters before uploading. You can do this through the State of Florida DSDE104 form. From there fill in all the information directly on the website that will be true of all of your voters such as Candidate Name, Party affiliation, County, State, etc.
From here click “Print” and select “Save As Adobe PDF”. This will save the PDF in the final format that is easily imported into JotForm, which is what you want for the next step.
3.) Create Your Petition in Jotforms
Now the difficult part, actually creating your form. You can see an example of the form we’re talking about here. What this form will create is an easy, fillable form that can be done on mobile phone or desktop. Here’s what you need to do to create it:
a.) Click the “Create New Form” button at the top left
b.) Select “Import Form” and then “Import PDF Form”
c.) Import your pdf form you created in the spot above.
d.) Delete everything Jotform put in there automatically, it’s easier to just start from scratch and make sure this is done right then whatever Jotform automatically sets up for you.
e.) Create a “short text” and title it “Full Name”. Make sure to specify in the sublabel this needs to be your full name as it appears on your voter registration.
f.) On the .pdf itself you’ll see a little green box appear, move that to the “Name” section. This is where what they type in will appear.
g.) Do this for all the other sections, including Date of Birth, Address, City, County, and Zip Code.
Note: If your district is fully encompassed in one county you can add that in on your side
h.) Go to widgets and add in “E-Signature”, place that on the signature pad.
Note: We recommend making a subheading that says that this must match your signature with the supervisor of elections, so people take this signature seriously.
i.) Add in the “Date Picker” and place it on Date Signed.
Note: We recommend defaulting this option to “current date” by clicking “Properties”, “Options”, and under “Default Date” selecting Current.
j.) Add any other information you’d like to collect. This is a great way to collect emails or phone numbers for future followup on the campaign, but you may also want to collect this information for any corrections people need to make on the form.
k.) Make sure all of these fields are “required” before submission by clicking on the properties and clicking “Required” on every field.
In the end your form should look something like this:
Finally: Go to settings and ensure everything matches. Enter the title you want to show on Social Media and in the browser window. Decide what email you want notifications to go to. You can also edit the “Thank You Page”.
4.) Promoting Your Petitions
Now your form is up and ready to go, but how do you get it out to the world?
Send it out via email.
If you have any email list this is a great time to send it out and ask your supporters. Our campaigns have also had good luck with telling our supporters to “forward this email to 4-5 friends in our area to help spread the word.
Use social media
Post the petition on social media to get your supporters to fill out. We recommend making your ask focused on public safety around COVID-19, that since it isn’t safe to collect petitions person to person your campaign needs help to collect petitions online. Make an ask in your post to have folks share it.
Post in groups
There are dozens of political groups online that want to help Democrats get elected. Make sure to share it in these groups to help get the word out and get as many petitions signed as possible.
Use local networks
Ask your Local Democratic parties, activist groups, Democratic clubs and caucuses, League of Women Voters, Sierra Clubs, etc. to see if they’ll send the petition out to their folks. Remind them that by sending out your petition they aren’t endorsing your campaign, they’re just ensuring that your name is on the ballot and ensuring everyone is safe during this time of Coronavirus.
It’s easy to be defensive about your campaign, to try to find advantages over your opponent. We get it, we like winning elections too, but try to be supportive of your fellow campaigns during this time. When we help eachother everyone else is lifted up. There’s plenty of time to fight for your election down the road.
In a time of so much negativity, this is a good opportunity to practice positivity. Try to be supportive of your fellow campaigns during this time. Getting this change made by the Secretary of State actually took a large bi-partisan coalition of candidates. We’re a big fan of winning elections, but when we help each other, everyone else is lifted up too. There’s plenty of time to fight for your campaign down the road.
Stay safe, stay socially distant, and good luck with your election!