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First White House Petition Crosses Raised Response Threshold

The first petition posted to the White House’s We the People website has crossed the threshold to receive an official administration response since that bar was raised in January.

The White House’s Digital Strategy Office raised the threshold from 25,000 signatures in one month to 100,000 signatures in one month, saying it was difficult to provide full and timely responses under the existing threshold. The White House previously raised the threshold from 5,000 signatures just a few weeks after the petition site was launched in late 2011.

It took officials 54 days on average to respond to petitions that crossed the 25,000 signature threshold, according to a Nextgov analysis.

The first petition to cross the raised threshold asked the U.S. government to seek sanctions against Dutch officials who petitioners claim are responsible for the death of Russian political activist Alexander Dolmatove. Dolmatov committed suicide in a Dutch detention center in January after fleeing his homeland following President Vladimir Putin’s reelection.

The petition appeared to have crossed the response threshold late Wednesday or early Thursday. Administration officials have typically declined to substantively comment on petitions that fall under the purview of another national government.

Some We the People petitioners have complained that their petitions rarely lead officials to fundamentally rethink administration policies. Officials have responded that the site is better judged as a communication tool to let the government know what issues are important to the public. They have also cited a handful of situations in which petitions arguably led to rethinking policy including a proposed rule to more tightly restrict commercial dog breeders. 

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