A petition is a request to do something, most commonly addressed to a government official or public entity. Petitions to a deity are a form of prayer called supplication.
In the colloquial sense, a petition is a document addressed to some official and signed by numerous individuals. A petition may be oral rather than written, and in this era may be transmitted via the Internet.
In pre-modern Imperial China petitions were always sent to an Office of Transmission (Tongzheng si or 通政司) where court secretaries read petitions aloud to the emperor. Petitions could be sent by anybody, from a scholar-official to a common farmer, although the petitions
*Petitions are commonly used in the U.S. to qualify candidates for public office to appear on a ballot; while anyone can be a write-in candidate, a candidate desiring that his or her name appear on printed ballots and other official election materials must gather a certain number of valid signatures from registered voters. In jurisdictions whose laws allow for ballot initiatives, the gathering of a sufficient number of voter signatures qualilfies a proposed initiative to be placed on the ballot. *