The move comes a few days after the administration responded to several petitions calling for states to secede from the union in the wake of President Obama’s reelection. Those petitions came from every state in the union but only nine crossed the former threshold of 25,000 signatures and only one, from Texas, crossed the new 100,000 signature threshold.
Officials raised the response threshold from 5,000 signatures to 25,000 signatures in October 2011 after the site proved more popular than expected during its first month online. White House Digital Strategy Director Macon Phillips cited a similar signature spike in November 2012, to justify the current threshold increase in a Tuesday blog post.
Phillips described both threshold increases as a “good problem to have,” noting that more than 60 percent of the petitions that crossed the response threshold in 2012 did so in the final two months of the year. During those two months about 73,000 new petitions were created and 2.4 million new users registered with We the People, he said.
“Turns out that ‘good problem’ is only getting better,” he said, “so we're making another adjustment to ensure we’re able to continue to give the most popular ideas the time they deserve.”
The new threshold does not apply to petitions that were already filed before the announcement, he said. The administration has responded to 162 petitions since We the People was launched, he said.
The recent spike in petition responses seems to have been spurred by renewed interest in the site following the secession petitions and a separate cluster of petitions following the December shooting of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
At least five petitions have received more than 100,000 signatures so far:
- Sought stricter gun control laws following the Sandy Hook shooting
- Sought a presidential order defining the Westboro Baptist Church, which planned to protest the funerals of Sandy Hook victims, as a hate group
- Sought permission for Texas to secede from the union
- Asked the administration to officially refer to the body of water between South Korea and Japan as the Sea of Japan rather than the East Sea
- Asked the administration focus on improving human rights in Vietnam rather than expanding trade