Is Engagement Delayed Engagement Denied?

Two We the People petitions have waited 22 months for a White House response.

Tuesday marked 22 months since the launch of the White House’s online petition site We the People.

It also marked 21 months and a handful of days since two petitions filed during We the People’s first week online crossed the threshold for an official White House response.

One of those petitions asked the president to End the Military’s Discrimination against Non-Religious Service Members. The other asked him to Require all Genetically Modified Foods to be labeled as such.

Officials have responded to 120 petitions during We the People’s comparatively short lifespan, but those two remain unanswered.

A Nextgov analysis in January found the average We the People petition waited about three months for a White House response.

I spoke with Dustin Chalker, author of the military discrimination petition, in September 2012 when his petition had gone unanswered for one year. He speculated the White House may be ducking his petition for fear of alienating service members on either side of the issue. He said he’d become deeply cynical about the site’s potential to aid civic debate.

Whether the delay in these two cases comes from fear of offending or mere bureaucratic inefficiency, a two-year delay would be a serious blow to We the People’s claim of being the people’s “direct line to the White House on the issues and concerns that matter most.”