White House puts the brakes on runaway petition site
The White House has raised the signature threshold petitions on its We the People website must reach to receive an official administration response after the administration was inundated with inflammatory and quirky petitions that reached a previous threshold.
In a Jan. 15 blog post, the administration said it raised the threshold for reciving an official response to 100,000 signatures in 30 days, up from 25,000 signatures. In recent weeks, the White House has responded to petitions that called for states to secede from the union after President Obama was reelected and a call to build a Death Star.
The White House already raised the site's original threshold of 5,000 signatures to 25,000 within a month of its Sept. 22, 2011 launch.
Petitions to secede from the United States came from every state and nine surpassed the prior 25,000 signature threshold, while a peition from Texas residents also crossed the 100,000 signature mark.
White House Director of Digital Strategy Macon Phillips called the need to raise the threshold a "good problem to have" and the adjustment is to "ensure we're able to continue to give the most popular ideas the time they deserve."
Within hours of the change, some website members responded with a petition to lower the signature requirement back down to 25,000. "Congress gets lobbyists. We get petitions," it reads.
Phillips said that 60 percent of the petitions that reached the 25,000 signature mark in 2012 did so in the last two months of the year. In those two months, the site had 2.4 million new users join, 73,000 petitions were created and 4.9 million signatures were registered.
The administration has issued 96 responses that cover 162 petitions since the launch of the website, including one asking for the White House beer recipe, another on the existence of alien life and a call for the United States investigate a Polish Air Force crash, as well as 10 "we can't comment" replies, all of which Phillips called part of the "important policy debates here in Washington."