How We’re Changing the Way We Respond to Petitions

Jason Goldman (White House) at Medium: “…In 2011 (years before I arrived at the White House), the team here developed a petitions platform called We the People. It provided a clear and easy way for the American people to petition their government — along with a threshold for action. Namely — once a petition gains 100,000 signatures.

This was a new system for the United States government, announced as a flagship effort in the first U.S. Open Government National Action Plan. Right now it exists only for the White House (Hey, Congress! We have anopen API! Get in touch!) Some other countries, including Germany and theUnited Kingdom, do online petitions, too. In fact, the European Parliamenthas even started its own online petitioning platform.

For the most part, we’ve been pretty good about responding — before today, the Obama Administration had responded to 255 petitions that had collectively gathered more than 11 million signatures. That’s more than 91 percent of the petitions that have met our threshold requiring a response. Some responses have taken a little longer than others. But now, I’m happy to say, we have caught up.

Today, the White House is responding to every petition in our We the Peoplebacklog — 20 in all.

This means that nearly 2.5 million people who had petitioned us to take action on something heard back today. And it’s our goal to make that response the start of the conversation, not the final page. The White House is made up of offices that research and analyze the kinds of policy issues raised by these petitions, and leaders from those offices will be taking questions today, and in the weeks to come, from petition signers, on topics such as vaccination policy, community policing, and other petition subjects.

Take a look at more We the People stats here.

We’ll start the conversation on Twitter. Follow @WeThePeople, and join the conversation using hashtag #WeThePeople. (I’ll be personally taking your questions on @Goldman44 about how we’re changing the platform specifically at 3:30 p.m. Eastern.)

We the People, Moving Forward

We’re going to be changing a few things about We the People.

  1. First, from now on, if a petition meets the signature goal within a designated period of time, we will aim to respond to it — with an update or policy statement — within 60 days wherever possible. You can read about the details of our policy in the We the People Terms of Participation.
  2. Second, other outside petitions platforms are starting to tap into the We the People platform. We’re excited to announce today that is choosing to integrate with the We the People platform, meaning the future signatures of its 100 million users will count toward the threshold for getting an official response from the Administration. We’re also opening up the code behind on and GitHub, which empowers other governments and outside organizations to create their own versions of this platform to engage their own citizens and constituencies.
  3. Third, and most importantly, the process of hearing from us about your petition is going to look a little different. We’ve assembled a team of people responsible for taking your questions and requests and bringing them to the right people — whether within the White House or in an agency within the Administration — who may be in a position to say something about your request….(More)