White House to revamp online petition system after years of ineffectiveness

The White House announced Tuesday, Dec. 19, it planned to temporarily suspend operation of its “We the People” electronic petitioning system and vowed to resume operation early next year.

The gesture to suspend the instrument is said to save over $1.3 million tax dollars annually, but the administration says the site will resume functioning as a new site in late January.

A White House official told the Associated Press once the website returns to full operation in January 2018 the administration would reinstate petitions and begin offering responses to petitioners.

Since his inauguration in January, the Trump administration has not responded to petitions despite a pledge to answer concerns on subjects in which petitioners exceeded 100,000 signatures.

Since assuming office in January, petitions demanding the president release his tax returns, resign from office and place his assets in a blind trust have dominated the website.  Others unrelated to Mr. Trump have centered on funding for National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Launched in 2011 under then-President Obama, the site was established as a method to create and sign petitions on a range of public issues.  The site was billed as Mr. Obama fulfilling a promise to incorporate technology to achieve his goal of an accessible, transparent and accountable government.

After its debut, the site grew rapidly over 15 months to include over 5 million registered users affixing over 9 million signatures to various petitions.  Over 140,000 petitions cropped up on the site in its first year of operation alone.

At the time of its creation, the Obama administration declared it would offer replies to any petition which earned 5,000 signatures.  Shortly after launching the site, the Obama White House raised the threshold to 100,000.

Early petitions during the Obama years suggested Mr. Obama authorize and fund a Star Wars-style Death Star, demands to deport Justin Bieber and recommendations then-Vice President Joe Biden become the subject of a reality television show.

Others garnered action, like allowing cell phone customers to keep their device when switching to another network.


[AP] [Mother Jones] [Washington Post]