White House petitions now need 100,000 signatures for official response

The Obama administration says 2.4 million new users joined the White House's online petition system We the People in the last two months of 2012.

Want to petition the White House? You'll need four times as many signatures as before to get an official response.

Petitions filed on the government's We the People website now require 100,000 signatures in 30 days  up from 25,000  to warrant a reply from the Obama administration.

The raising of the threshold was announced Tuesday night. It applies only to new petitions, not ones that have already been started.

The White House notes the number of people filing online petitions has skyrocketed as President Barack Obama prepares for a second term. That means staff has to spend more time addressing a growing number of petitions that surpass the minimum-signature requirement.

We the People was launched in September 2011 and has become an increasingly popular venue for concerned citizens to propose serious policy changes  and not-so-serious ones.

Among the recent petitions that garnered the previous minimum of 25,000 signatures required for an administration response: to impeach Obama ("The short answer is no," the White House responded), to stop paying all members of Congress and the president until the "fiscal cliff" could be avoided (an agreement with Congress was reached) and to build a moon-size, planet-killing "Death Star" for national defense (costs too much, not on the horizon).

"When we launched We the People, none of us knew how popular it would be, but it's exceeded our wildest expectations. Through the past year, interest in We the People exploded and we're closing in on 10 million signatures," Macon Phillips, White House director of digital strategy, said in a blog post Tuesday night explaining the raising of the signature threshold.

The White House first upped the threshold — from 5,000 to 25,000  in October 2011.

"When we first raised the threshold … we called it 'a good problem to have.' Turns out that 'good problem' is only getting better, so we're making another adjustment to ensure we're able to continue to give the most popular ideas the time they deserve," Phillips wrote.

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In the last two months of 2012, he said, use of We the People more than doubled. "In just that time roughly 2.4 million new users joined the system, 73,000 petitions were created and 4.9 million signatures were registered," he added.

All petitions that reach the new signature threshold of 100,000 signatures in 30 days will be reviewed by policy experts at the White House and across the administration.

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