White House Hikes Requirements for Responding to Petitions

Citing participation estimates it says were "a wee bit on the low side," the White House has quintupled the number of signatures petitions posted to its new We the People Web page must receive to get an official agency response.

New petitions posted to the site must get 25,000 signatures within 30 days to receive a response, according to a a White House blog entry posted Monday.

Officials decided to raise the threshold after 30 petitions reached the initial benchmark of 5,000 signatures during the site's first week, White House New Media director Macon Phillips wrote. "This many petitions challenges our ability to offer timely and meaningful responses...in the long term," he said.

The heightened requirement won't apply to petitions already on the site, Phillips said, though the White House may raise the signature requirement again if it can't keep up.

Five of We the People's 10 most popular petitions so far were posted by the mystifyingly well-organized lobby to legalize marijuana, as some sage observers predicted.

But the site also is home to petitions across a broad swath of topics ranging from altering the tax-exempt status of religious institutions to raising voter participation by making Election days national holidays.

Experienced online petitioners might have predicted the flood of signatures to We the People, Randy Paynter, creator of the non-profit Thepetitionsite.com told Nextgov. Thepetitionsite appears to be the largest hub of online petitions on the Internet.

In addition to the high volume of popular petitions on We the People, many of them from a "very vocal, but very small, population," Paynter said, the White House will have to figure out how to respond to popular petitions on issues that the executive branch has little control over, such as issues that are largely in the hands of Congress, state governments, foreign governments or international organizations.