Now You Can Petition Some Members of Congress Directly

 Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is one of the lawmakers signed up for the service.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is one of the lawmakers signed up for the service. Chuck Burton/AP file photo

Paul Ryan and Elizabeth Warren are among the early adopters of a website that invites citizens to tell lawmakers what they really want.

One of the most popular websites for online activists launched a new service on Wednesday that allows lawmakers to create official pages where constituents can petition them on everything from potholes to major national policies.

A handful of prominent legislators have already signed up for the new service from Change.org, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Jake Brewer, the site’s external affairs director and developer of Change.org for Decision Makers.

Any of Change.org’s 50 million users will be able to create or sign an appeal directed at a lawmaker who creates an account on the site, but lawmakers will be able to see how many of the signers are actual constituents based on information they provided when they registered with the site, Brewer said.

People browsing the site will be able to see nearly everything the politicians can see, he said, including the petition text, the number of people who signed it and comments people left after signing.

The site’s designers have twin goals. They hope collecting constituent demands into a single petition rather than hundreds or thousands of emails will give politicians a positive incentive to respond and engage with them. They also hope that making the entire process public will give politicians a “negative incentive” to engage with petitioners because they don’t want to look unresponsive in the public eye.

“This will help members of Congress to prioritize,” Brewer said. “It will also give citizens an opportunity to join in the process because it’s transparent and online. It’s not just happening in the black hole of an inbox somewhere.”

Change.org is classified as a B Corporation by the state of California, meaning it’s a for-profit company dedicated to social good. The company’s income comes from sponsored petitions bought mainly by nonprofits and advocacy organizations that receive prominent status on the site similar to promoted posts on social media.

Change.org for Decision Makers bears some similarities to the White House petition website We the People. Petitioners on that site are promised an official White House response if they can gain more than 100,000 signatures in one month.

Unlike We the People, however, Change.org petitions won’t stop gathering signatures once an official responds, Brewer said. That means petitioners can write back if they believe a politician hasn’t responded adequately or if they don’t like what she said.

For many politicians, Brewer said, he expects responding to Change.org petitions will be less formal than We the People responses. Politicians will be able to defend their responses when petitioners don’t like them or ask for input about how to address an issue. They can also tell petitioners when they think a petition should be directed at another public figure, for instance a petition on U.S. intervention in Syria that’s directed at a senator who doesn’t sit on the foreign relations committee.

“This isn’t just about having an antagonistic relationship,” Brewer said. “It’s really an opportunity to start a conversation.”

Change.org isn’t taking a position on whether politicians should or shouldn’t set a threshold for when they’ll respond to a petition, Brewer said. If politicians do set a threshold, however, organizers are asking -- but not demanding -- that they not set it at a higher ratio of petition signers per constituents than the We the People threshold, he said.

In other words, the 100,000-signature We the People threshold divided by the U.S. population of roughly 300 million works out to about one signature per every 3,000 constituents. That same ratio would equal about 230 signatures for the average congressional district.

Other members of Congress have expressed interest in using the site but registering many of them was delayed by the partial government shutdown that ended last week, Brewer said. The decision maker profiles will also be available to non-federal officials including governors, state legislators, city council members and mayors.

“For years people have been trying to use technology to improve the way citizens can interact and engage with Congress or with mayors or with governors,” Brewer said. “The answer has always been trying to get more citizen voices inside of government, it’s ‘how do we allow for citizens to be heard in the halls of Congress.’ With Change.org for Decision Makers, what we’re doing is saying ‘no, instead of bringing citizens into government, we’re bringing government leaders out where the people already are’ . . . We’re inviting elected members  into  our quote-unquote offices on the Internet where we can talk about the issues we want to talk about.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.