A representation of "Bigfoot" based on eyewitness reports… (Uwe Zucchi / EPA )
Apparently, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.
In response to a wave of civic activism or, in some cases, cynicism, the White House announced this week that it’s upping the threshold required for petitioners to receive a response from the government.
As Andrew Khouri reported Wednesday, no longer will petitions that reach 25,000 online signatures trigger a response from the government. It’s now 100,000 in 30 days.
Thanks a lot, all 50 states.
Though White House Director of Digital Strategy Macon Phillips didn’t say it in his blog outlining the new policy, the more-difficult-to-reach threshold looks to be a response to a number of petitions the White House has received since President Obama was elected. The surge in popularity, not surprisingly, started after the election when countless petitions were launched in every state to secede from the union.
Those petitions, unrealistic as they may have been, gained a lot of media coverage and shone a light on a direct channel for citizens to communicate with their government. And if you’ve ever watched your hometown’s city council meeting, when you give John Q. Taxpayer a microphone and a chance to speak directly to his government representatives, antics are sure to follow.
More than 60% of the petitions in 2012 that exceeded 25,000 signatures came in November and December. Sprinkled among the more serious-minded petitions calling for national policy discussions came calls to break up the union and to build a Death Star a la "Star Wars." (The White House convincingly rejected that one.)
Among the current petitions are a request to ban hammers and baseball bats (2,500 signatures), recognize Sasquatch as an indigenous species (800 signatures) and put New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on trial for treason (1,500 signatures).
Although I don’t think the change will limit the petitions that come in, hopefully it will let the most serious, and in some cases the most clever, bubble to the top for a government reply. Since the Death Star has already been proposed, may I propose a popcorn-making laser jet?
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