Maybe things are different where you come from
We have at least two types of clip board carriers that come to our door. One type is usually by some activist group looking to give names to people in government who do or would support some measure. Classic examples are such as "environmentalists" and they often support some very local concern such as a zoning permit, construction permit, etc. which they are generally against. They are lobbying the decision makers. Most often, these folk will also ask for money to further their endeavors. For the most part, they are not volunteers but are paid from what they collect. They may or may not even be all that interested in the specific issue they represent. I will choose to sign or not sign their clipboard depending on how I feel about that particular issue. The other petition type...the real one...is the ballot petition. You will often see these after some law has been passed which is unpopular with a group of citizens. They will go door to door collecting signatures in an effort to place the issue on the ballot so the voters can decide directly. The same can be done preemptively if some issue is going before local government officials but some group wants the voters to decide directly. They, by law, can petition for direct vote in a lot of cases. This also goes for "recall" elections. A petition is circulated and, if enough signatures are collected, an official can be removed. I've not seen these petitioners to be collecting money at the same time, however.
I'm in favor of direct vote almost anytime something becomes a hot issue in government and it seems that politics are being played. When this happens, I'd like the citizens to take over and make the decision. It really shouldn't be how I want it or my next door neighbor wants it but by what the greater community desires. I will sign almost any such petition regardless of whether I'm on one side or the other. That's the American way.
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