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White House ‘We the People’ petitions unanswered two years later

The Obama administration has touted the White House website’s ‘We the People’ section as a powerful platform for the American public to petition their government. According to a new report, however, those solicitations are all too rarely acknowledged.

“When I ran for this office, I pledged to make government  more open and accountable to its citizens,” United States  President Barack Obama wrote on WhiteHouse.gov back in September  2011. He was unveiling at the time the website’s new ‘We the  People’ feature, and said the addition of it would be “giving  Americans a direct line to the White House on the issues and  concerns that matter most to them.”

“Soon, anyone will be able to create or sign a petition at  WhiteHouse.gov seeking action from the federal government on a  range of issues,” senior advisor David Plouffe added at the  time. “If a petition gathers enough signatures, the White  House staff will review it, make sure it gets to Obama  Administration policy experts and issue an official  response.”

But 27 months later, an   investigation conducted by federal technology site NextGov  has revealed that many of the petitions that have met the  criteria needed for a response have been long ignored by the  administration — including at least one that’s been in limbo for  over two years.

“There are currently 30 We the People petitions that have  crossed the threshold for an official White House reply but not  yet gotten one, including eight that have been waiting more than  one year,” Joseph Marks wrote for NextGov on Thursday this  week.

On average, Marks added, those petitions have been waiting around  10 months apiece so far for a response.

In the two-plus years since being launched, the White House has  undoubtedly been aware of the popularity of the We the People  section of its site. Originally the administration required that  petitions receive only 5,000 signatures to warrant a response,  and then raised that threshold to 25,000 autographs and  eventually 100,000.

The White House has responded to 134 requests since Sept. 2011—or  around five a month. But 30 petitions that surpassed the  signature threshold still remain unanswered, including some that  accumulated far more digital autographs than necessary.

A   petition demanding labels for all genetically modified foods,  for example, was created within days of the site’s launch and  needed to get the support of only 5,000 people to provoke a  response. When that deadline passed 30 days later, it had been  signed by more than 51,000 people. And while two states —   Connecticut and Maine — have each managed to vote in favor of  GMO label laws during that span, the White House has failed to  even issue a cookie-cutter response, according to NextGov’s  report.

When computer prodigy Aaron Swartz committed suicide last January  amid a federal court case surrounding hacking charges, the  prosecution was quickly condemned by many with allegations of  prosecutorial overreach. Within days of his death a   petition was launched asking Pres. Obama to remove from  office Carmen Ortiz, the US attorney for Massachusetts who  prosecuted Swartz. That petition was signed by more than double  the 25,000 signatures it needed then, but the White House has  stayed silent. A separate  petition asking for the termination of Assistant US Attorney  for Massachusetts Stephen Heymann also accumulated enough  signatures for a response, but the White House remains quiet 11  months later.

The White House plans to respond to each petition  that crosses the signature threshold,” the We the People  site still   reads today. “We will do our best to respond to petitions  that cross the signature threshold in a timely fashion, however,  depending on the topic and the overall volume of petitions from  We the People, responses may be delayed.

“Among the reasons for raising the threshold, the White House  cited a desire to provide timelier and higher quality petition  responses,” Marks wrote for NextGov. “Unanswered  petitions posted after the threshold hike have been waiting 103  days for a response on average.

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Source: rt.com

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Comment (1)

  1. Jerichow

    It was just a publicity stunt in order to generate a positive response from the people towards his re-election cause. Like all other things he promised to do good for this country – this too was just a lie in order to keep power.

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