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Petition Obama on-line: New White House online organizing tool to push issues to top of list

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WASHINGTON--The Obama White House, taking a cue from the United Kingdom, announced Thursday morning the launch of "We the People," a new online e-petition organizing tool intended to push federal government issues that otherwise might be ignored to the top of the list.

The announcement came on several fronts: from White House senior advisor David Plouffe in an email and on a White House blog by Macon Phillips, the White House director of digital strategy. Plouffe is intensely interested in metrics and the online drive, if it works, will bring in new names--from the Tea Party to Progressives and all in-between--who otherwise might not be on the Obama radar.

In the political context, this tool will give the White House another way of measuring what people are interested in. There is no promise of government action in this new program, only that after meeting a 5,000-signature threshold, petitions will be "reviewed and answered."

Said Plouffe, "We're about to change the way Americans engage with President Obama and his Administration by launching a new way for you to join with fellow Americans to petition the federal government on a range of issues."

This roll out of this new feature is being "teased," in an effort to collect more names and spur more engagement online. And once again the Obama team, attempting to make people feel special, promises a "first to know" email once the feature is online. Of course, the Obama team, it seems could have launched the feature live, but the two-step has proved effective for them.

Wrote Plouffe, "Help us spread the word about this new tool by forwarding this email to ten friends. And remember, if you want to learn more about We the People and be the first to know when it is live, head to http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/WeThePeople."

Phillips writes, "Individuals will be able to create or sign a petition that calls for action by the federal government on a range of issues. If a petition gathers enough support (i.e., signatures) it will be reviewed by a standing group of White House staff, routed to any other appropriate offices and generate an official, on-the-record response.

"How many signatures? Initially petitions that gather more than 5,000 signatures in 30 days will be reviewed and answered.

"There's another aspect to this meant to emphasize the grassroots, word of mouth organizing that thrives on the internet. At first, a petition's unique URL will only be known to its creator and will not show up anywhere else on WhiteHouse.gov. It's up to that person to share it in their network to gather an initial amount of signatures -- initially 150 -- before it is searchable on WhiteHouse.gov."

click below for Plouffe, Phillips memos....

E-mail from White House Senior Advisor David Plouffe...

Good morning,

We're about to change the way Americans engage with President Obama and his Administration by launching a new way for you to join with fellow Americans to petition the federal government on a range of issues.

It's called We the People and you can learn more about it, and sign up to be the first to know when it's live here:

President Obama believes that government should be open and accountable to its citizens, and that's the goal of We the People. This online platform gives 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. 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. President Obama will even answer a few himself.

While this is a big change for the White House's website, the idea is actually written into our founding documents. Throughout our history, Americans have used petitions to organize around issues they care about. We the People gives you a new way to join together with others to ask your government to address a problem, change a policy, or take action on a range of issues.

We the People will be launching very soon so start thinking about the issues that matter to you and the people you'll ask to join you.

We're looking forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

David Plouffe
Senior Advisor to the President

P.S. Help us spread the word about this new tool by forwarding this email to ten friends. And remember, if you want to learn more about We the People and be the first to know when it is live, head to http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/WeThePeople

From Macon Phillips, White House director of digital strategy......


The White House Blog

We the People: Announcing White House Petitions & How They Work
Posted by Macon Phillips on September 01, 2011 at 07:00 AM EDT
Something exciting is coming to WhiteHouse.gov. It's called We the People and it will significantly change how the public -- you! -- engage with the White House online.

Our Constitution guarantees your right to petition our government. Now, with We the People, we're offering a new way to submit an online petition on a range of issues -- and get an official response.

We're announcing We the People before it's live to give folks time to think about what petitions they want create, and how they are going to build the support to get a response.

When will it be live? Soon. If you want to be the first to know when the system is available, sign up for an email alert.

Here's a video we put together to explain what it is and how it works:

Here are the basics:

Individuals will be able to create or sign a petition that calls for action by the federal government on a range of issues. If a petition gathers enough support (i.e., signatures) it will be reviewed by a standing group of White House staff, routed to any other appropriate offices and generate an official, on-the-record response.

How many signatures? Initially petitions that gather more than 5,000 signatures in 30 days will be reviewed and answered.

There's another aspect to this meant to emphasize the grassroots, word of mouth organizing that thrives on the internet. At first, a petition's unique URL will only be known to its creator and will not show up anywhere else on WhiteHouse.gov. It's up to that person to share it in their network to gather an initial amount of signatures -- initially 150 -- before it is searchable on WhiteHouse.gov.

As we move forward, your feedback about We the People will be invaluable, and there are a few ways you can share it. Numerous pages on WhiteHouse.gov, including the We the People section, feature a feedback form. In addition, you can use the twitter hashtag #WHWeb to give the White House digital team advice and feedback. I'll also try to answer questions when I have time today -- you can pose them to @macon44.

Finally, while We the People is a fresh approach to official, online petitions, the United States isn't the first to try; for example, the United Kingdom offers e-petitions, and this work was very helpful as we developed our own.

Macon Philips is the White House Director of Digital Strategy

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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