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White House Petition Site Draws Venezuelan Crowds

Nicolas Maduro followed Hugo Chavéz as president of Venezuela.

Nicolas Maduro followed Hugo Chavéz as president of Venezuela. // Ariana Cubillos/AP

The petition website designed to give citizens “a direct line to the White House on the issues and concerns that matter most” is proving popular outside the U.S. as well.

An April 15 We the People petition asking the Obama administration to urge a recount in the Venezuelan presidential election skyrocketed to nearly 100,000 signatures in just two days online, making it one of the fastest growing petitions ever posted to the 19-month-old White House website.

The petition has now received 124,000 signatures and is the second most popular unanswered petition on We the People. It was filed the day after Nicolas Maduro, the handpicked successor of Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chavez, narrowly defeated challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski to win the South American nation’s top office. Capriles has challenged the result, citing voting irregularities.

Nearly 70 percent of people who virtually signed the Venezuela petition did not include a U.S.-based location stamp in their signature, according to a Nextgov analysis, suggesting many of those signatures originated from abroad.

By comparison, 89 percent of signatures on a Nov. 10, 2012 petition demanding a recount of the U.S. presidential election included U.S. location stamps, Nextgov found. That petition received more than 72,000 signatures. Petitions now must garner 100,000 signatures to get an official government response, though that threshold was lower in the past. 

We the People does not allow signers to list international locations when they register with the site and does not require location stamps from U.S.-based registrants. There is no way to determine how many of the signers without location stamps were based in Venezuela versus other nations or to verify that people who register with We the People are located where they say they are.

Nextgov’s analysis was based on 84,379 signatures, or about 68 percent of all signatures on the petition as of April 23. Because of technological limitations we were unable to analyze 100 percent of signatures.

We the People’s popularity abroad has been evident in the past. Petitions asking the president to weigh in on a dispute between South Korea and Japan over the appropriate name for the body of water that separates the two nations, for instance, received more than 120,000 signatures in April 2012. Kurt Campbell, then assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, responded to that petition in July 2012, stating the U.S. would not change its longstanding policy of referring to the water body as the Sea of Japan.

The 32 percent of Venezuela petition signatures that included U.S. location stamps were concentrated in states with large Hispanic populations.

Half of those signatures came from Florida and an additional 19 percent came from Texas, New York and California. Only 31 percent came from the remaining 46 states. Signatures on the U.S. recount petition were much more widely distributed with no single state accounting for more than 2 percent of the whole.

On the Venezuela petition, Miami alone accounted for 23 percent of all signatures with a location stamp. South Florida hosts one of the largest and fastest growing populations of Venezuelan immigrants in the U.S.  

The next five cities with the most petition signers were Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Houston; Hollywood, Fla.; Orlando, Fla.; and New York City. 

[Figures in the graphic below are based on a Nextgov  analysis of 84,379 petition signatures, or 68 percent of all signatures as of April 23. Because of technological limitations we were unable to analyze 100 percent of signatures.]

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