WASHINGTON, D.C. – Deputies to President Obama have just made it more difficult to qualify for an official response to petitions filed at the administration’s “We the People” website. Instead of 25,000 signatures it will now take 100,000 before the White House responds.
The petition site gained attention just after the election as petitioners in a number of states called for their state to secede. Other petitions that have drawn significant numbers include a call to deport CNN’s British-born, progressive host Piers Morgan and for the White House to disavow executive orders that restrict gun rights.
“Starting today, as we move into a second term, petitions must receive 100,000 signatures in 30 days in order to receive an official response from the Obama Administration,” said an early evening January 15 statement from Macon Phillips, the White House’s digital strategy director.
“This new threshold applies only to petitions created from this point forward and is not retroactively applied to ones that already exist.”
Phillips said the increased threshold is a response to the increasing popularity of the site. “The ‘good problem’ is only getting better, so we’re making another adjustment to ensure we’re able to continue to give the most popular ideas the time they deserve. It’s wonderful to see so many people using We the People to add their voices to important policy debates here in Washington and bring attention to issues that might not get the attention they deserve.”
When the administration first established the petition system in September 2011, Obama’s aides promised that any petition with 5,000 signatures would receive a formal written response from White House officials. That threshold was raised to 25,000 for 2012.
The new 100,000-signature threshold follows a series of provocative and embarrassing petitions, some of which attracted enough signatures to meet the threshold set by Obama for getting a formal White House response.
Usage of the petition site has spiked since the election, partly because more than 600,000 people have signed various secession petitions
“In the first 10 months of 2012, it took an average of 18 days for a new petition to cross the 25,000-signature threshold,” said Macon’s statement. “In the last two months of the year, that average time was cut in half to just 9 days, and most petitions that crossed the threshold collected 25,000 signatures within five days of their creation. Six out of 10 petitions that met the 25,000 threshold passed in November and December,” said Macon.
While the petitions are largely symbolic (since the official responses actually given are little more than cursory dismissals), every so often, they succeed. For instance, progressives filed a petition to remove the minister Louie Giglio from the Inauguration Day ceremonies. The minister had criticized the ideology of gas lobbies and championed child-centered traditional marriage. That petition cleared and Obama removed Giglio from Inauguration Day ceremonies.