White House Offers Online Petition Tool

on September 01, 2011 at 10:20 AM

The White House is providing a new tool for the public to talk to its government.

It’s making it easier for the public to petition the government online through the tool,
We The People. An official response is guaranteed for any petition that draws enough signatures – 5,000 names within 30 days.

“When I ran for this office, I pledged to make government more open and accountable to its citizens,” President Obama said in a taped announcement on whitehouse.gov.

Here’s how it works: Individuals will be able to create an online petition that calls for action by the federal government on a range of issues. If a petition gathers enough signatures (5,000) it will be reviewed by a standing group of White House staff, routed to any other appropriate offices and generate an official, on-the-record response.

A person creating a petition with a unique URL will be responsible for circulating it and gathering an initial amount of signatures – 150 – before it is posted and searchable on WhiteHouse.gov. Then it could start attracting more signatures and even go viral.

The site features a feedback form. In addition, anyone can use the twitter hashtag #WHWeb to give the White House digital team advice and feedback.

The Obama administration already has made history using social media with agencies launching Facebook and Twitter accounts and delivering government transparency in ways that never existed before. And online petitions are another step to making it easier to hear what the public wants.

Obama said the new feature – We the People – will give Americans “a direct line” to the White House on issues that most concern them.

“Our Constitution guarantees your right to petition our government. Now, with We the People, we’re offering a new way to submit an online petition on a range of issues — and get an official response,” said Macon Philips, the White House Director of Digital Strategy.

Phillips said that while We the People is a fresh approach for the White House to respond to official, online petitions, it’s not the first government to try it. The United Kingdom offers e-petitions. “This work was very helpful as we developed our own,” he said.