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back to article White House raises the signature threshold for petitions to 100,000

The last two months have seen a dramatic spike in use of the "We the People" online petition system set up by the White House, and with President Obama about to start a second term, the rules are being changed. The petitioning system was set up by the Obama administration in September 2011, and initially it required the White …

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Meh

No Whammy's....STOP!

"The British government already has the e-petition signature threshold set at 100,000 and is considering raising it further to cut down on the number of responses it needs to make."

I'm sure that is why the USA is doing it too. Eventually it will be a percentage, something like 10% of the current population. Basically a number that will only be met due to an extremely unfortunate event. Oh, like, school shootings? Of course then, if the event is extremely popular, many rights groups and what not will play their hand, making the online petition the "Old Maid" in the hand.

BTW, where are the webpages for the outcomes of any petitioned request? Has anyone seen a successful petition that was finalized?

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Re: No Whammy's....STOP!

Why not raise the limit to a few million then we could call it a REFERENDUM - if governments raise it too high it could almost become one.

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Meh

Keep raising the petition number, it'll make no difference as the population in the US is so huge that proportionally they have more unhinged nutters than any other country in the world.

Example: NRA shooting game.

There will be no problem finding 100,000 for signatures for things like Death Stars, Nuke Iran, Death to Homosexuals, ban Mexicans etc etc.

America Land of the Brave home of the nutters.

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But... what about...

The Shoot the NRA chairman game that was recently released... crickets. If it have been of Obama, drones would have been warming up for the developers.

Besides, it's already been proven that 25% of Americans think a Moron is an endangered migratory bird. So maybe no as nut as just stupid. Difficult call.

;)

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Coat

Re: But... what about...

Isn't a moron a person from that cult that Mitt Romney belongs to? The ones that get to have multiple wives and magic underpants?

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Headmaster

Re: But... what about...

Wrong cult.. a moron is a member of the cult that tried to elect Romney, the other is a religion, and it's spelled Mormon.

NB: A cult is a religion who's founder is alive, a religion is a cult that has survived the death of its founder. - Sorry, pet peeve of mine

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Re: No Whammy's....STOP!

I think a few petitons to officially recognise the work of historic figures have been accepted. Not sure about any that ask the government to do anything more than reply, anyone?

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Childcatcher

All Out of Proportion

...the population in the US is so huge that proportionally they have more unhinged nutters than any other country in the world.

@LarsG, I think you are a little unclear on the concept of proportion versus that of amount. Also, that should be either "land of the free" or "home of the brave." I'm starting a petition to have such misuse of catchphrases banned/nuked/shot dead!

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Pint

home of the nutters

As an American, I represent that remark. And so does Britain.

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MrT
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In other news...

... does that sudden ramping up mean people actually care about what Piers Morgan says? Oh dear.

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Anonymous Coward

Why is this news?

Why is this news? Who cares if the "threshold" for "action" is 10K, 100K, or 100M, when the "action" is nothing more than the White House clearing its throat and practicing being "on-message" for the subject? It's not like there's any "hope" that any "change" will come of those petitions.

Of course, most of the petitions are misguided anyway - they ask for changes in the laws of the land. Sorry kiddies, you must have been sleeping during your US Government classes - the Legislative Branch is across the Mall that-a-way, this is the Executive Branch, we don't make the law, we just enforce it (well, enforce the bits we want to enforce, that is. Don't wave that pesky Constitution thingy in our faces, it burns us, my preciousssss).

So who cares that a meaningless Web site now requires more meaningless signatures on a meaningless petition before a meaningless policy statement is issued. If the administration wants to "save money" on that web site (yes, like bumping the signatures will even be anything more than a rounding error), in the immortal words of Gordan Ramsey, "SHUT IT DOWN!"

(and by the way: my disgust for this is totally non-partisan. I am sure were the Republicans in the White House they would be no more, and no less, attention to the site than the Democrats do. The only petition they have any hope of enacting would be a "Petition to just drop the facade and become a totalitarian state already").

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Re: Why is this news?

If anyone thought these petitions would make any difference they wouldn't be treating them as a joke by asking for the US to build a Death Star. The people of the US lost faith in their government somewhere between the Warren Report and Watergate, and whatever party is in power has only the 1/3 of the US people that strongly support them as true believers that they can really make a difference. And only that because Fox News or Huffington Post tells them it's so.

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Serves a purpose...

Search terms: Hyde Park, soapbox, and British monarchy. Provides a mostly harmless avenue for nutters to say their piece and be promptly forgotten. Somewhere to point to and say, "See? They Care!".

Plebs...

;)

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Childcatcher

Double Solution

Forget websites; make the petition system a premium-rate SMS number. Balance the budget and get the kiddies all feel-good about being "involved" in government, in one fell swoop!

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Devil

Re: Double Solution

But that would mean only the wealthy could effect and influence policy and... oh, wait... Situation normal, carry on.

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100,000

Still lower than Facebook's requirements.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 100,000

"100,000

Still lower than Facebook's requirements."

Who the F cares about Fakebook?

Only the Fake users.

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Terminator

5,000 or 25,000 signatures.....or more

This is not the democracy you're looking for.

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Anonymous Coward

Setting the bar higher makes no difference unless you 'action' some of these ideas - perhaps not the death star though ;)

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Am I the only one thinking a petition to reduce the number of signatures needed is needed?

I'm sure the JA petition has so few signatures not because only 38k give a fuck but because only 38k were brave/stupid enough to show support for a terrorist.

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Anonymous Coward

> I'm sure the JA petition has so few signatures not because only 38k give a fuck but because only 38k were brave/stupid enough to show support for a terrorist.

What JA petition are you talking about?

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Julian Assange

I Assume he means Julian Assange.

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Anonymous Coward

Hmm.. I wasn't aware Assange was a terrorist. I thought he was an Australian.

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Devil

Heh

In Switzerland, with that many signature, you can force a referendum on any new law…

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Headmaster

Re: Heh

Though to be fair, for the US to reach the same population proportion that represents, they'd need close to 4,000,000 signatures ;-)

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Petitions

I remember when I was a kid. Several times a year, someone would approach me in the playground or classroom and ask me to "sign our petition". Sometimes they were quite sensible ("Open both doors at the East entrance at lunchtime so we don't get trampled trying to get in or out") but most of the time they were absolute crackpot that only made sense when you were a child ("Get Mr Smith sacked because he gave me an unfair detention!" or "More/larger chocolate desserts for the same price at lunchtime", etc.)

Even back then, I never bothered. Honestly, it just wasn't worth it. You could have the entire place sign the thing and nothing much would ever happen about it, even if the idea was quite sensible (the doors never were both opened as long as I was at that school, for example - I assume there was a reason for this but never quite found out). Petitions really were the playground democracy and, let's be honest, the government will ignore most petitions just like my school did. Even the sensible ones.

It's a gauge for government, that's all. If the country was ruled by public opinion, people would be hung before they were tried, some celebrity would be in charge (until they made their first mistake) and road deaths would increase ten-fold after all the changes people wanted (like to be able to drive like nutters on

the motorway). All the petitions do is give a sense of "contribution", provide statistics about public opinion, but don't actually change anything. If the Jimmy Saville thing had come out earlier, and every person in the country voted to hang him without trial, it still wouldn't have happened. But they can use the list to look at the most-named ones and garner a lot of votes by giving a pseudo-statement to the effect that they'll look into it, and talk about it in the news (because people obviously want to hear about something being done about it, but obviously don't care about the three bills I slipped through the Parliament back door last week).

The largest petition on there attracting over 200,000 names was "Convicted London rioters should loose all benefits." Apart from the bad spelling, this suggests that people who were convicted of a crime should have a punishment not assigned by a court, in a rash legal change, for a single incident only (presumably OTHER criminals are okay, but the wording of the law), etc. etc. etc. And what was the response? No, basically. Of course it was.

The next ten more popular petitions of all time? No, we have already passed the law you didn't want. No (though we talked about it). We did nothing about this (though we talked about it). No, dropping the petrol taxes will cripple the country. We take your point but we can't stop people coming into the country. And, no, because PSHE classes already teach pupils enough financial acumen to survive in the world (really?).

The biggest trending petitions still open are the moment are ALL media-related (West Coast mainline, badger cull, tax at Rangers Football Club, etc.). That should worry more than anything - people care more about things that the news outlets place on their front pages than anything practical or sensible . Lots are inherently misguided. And some are just plain crackpot ("Alopecia Areata - Research Needed" has more names to it than "Save Royal Bolton Hospital").

A petition of any volume WILL NOT CHANGE ANYTHING. All the petitions on that site HAVE NOT CHANGED ANYTHING (and if they were successful, I'd argue they could have been without the petition anyway). If you don't want the West Coast Mainline to change, sure air your view. But the only thing that will actually make any difference is to NOT use the West Coast Mainline if it changes to a company you don't want to support. And that won't even be a government effect, just a purely profit one. The fact is that if it did change, and the government approved it, lots of people would shout for change while still using it every day. You can say "we had no choice", but that just proves how unimportant it is for the government to respond in such cases - they KNOW you have no choice, so there's little point taking your view into account.

It's like objecting to planning applications. Sure, you can. It's there. There's a process, and a form, and a guy, and a meeting that has to happen, and all the rest. But unless there's a REALLY good reason that nobody ever thought of and nobody ever checked and nobody's checklist forces them to consider already anyway, the chances are that your objections will be ignored and overruled. Chances are the number of objections upheld is really quite pathetic, and has more to do with things slipping through the net or personal favours rather than anything to do with "listening to the people".

A petition is worthless. All the ones people have ever pushed into my face have come to nothing. And an electronic one means even less. Of all the government petitions I see for the UK, you only have to get to page 4 of 623 at the moment (20 petitions per page) of the closed petitions before everything goes under 10,000 names. Currently open ones? Page 2. That means that just churning through and responding and administering those petitions is actually causing LESS things to get changed overall than if we didn't have that. We've wasted more man-hours petitioning online and responding to petitions that it would have cost just to carry on as we were and do something ourselves. And the government response to almost every petition? No, or doing nothing, at great expense.

Seriously, if your MP doesn't do anything when you personally write them a direct, open, well-considered, precise letter, what makes you think that an electronic tick-in-a-box does anything for the way they work? It doesn't. It just gives them an indication as to what the best thing to "cover-up" with is at the moment.

What's the solution to actually getting change? I don't know. But a petition is probably the last and worst thing to do.

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Def
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Re: Petitions

"What's the solution to actually getting change?"

Revolution. Always has been. Always will be.

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Thumb Up

Re: Petitions

@Lee Dowling - good post, one of the few loooooong ones I bothered to read :-) In summary though, you're right, all petitions are to a gov are a convoluted survey.

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Childcatcher

Re: Petitions

"Seriously, if your MP doesn't do anything when you personally write them a direct, open, well-considered, precise letter, what makes you think that an electronic tick-in-a-box does anything for the way they work?"

Lee, you make some very good points, of which I would like to amplify with this: while I lived in Georgia, I wrote a letter to the office of the governor. It was about some tech that I thought the state should pursue, or at least investigate. I got a response back that was clearly the result of someone there in the office actually reading my letter. I do not know what actions were eventually taken, or still are being taken, but I got the impression that what I said was at least considered rather than blown off.

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Anonymous Coward

says it all

"The British government already has the e-petition signature threshold set at 100,000 and is considering raising it further to cut down on the number of responses it needs to make."

We the people will be ignored. We the government will use this platform to make you plebs believe we care about your thoughts, but really we the government dont give a shit and you'll do as we say!

There. That's more like it!

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Anonymous Coward

What happened to Texas

Free and independent yet.

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FAIL

I never

noticed the government making any response no matter how many people signed the online petion

Only thing that makes MPs take any notice of anyone are brown paper bags filled with money... and no reciepts

Guess the US is heading in that direction too

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Well people had best get a move on signing this;

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/keep-piers-morgan-usa/cbpHr9R2

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I wish the UK petition system had an "oppose" option as I often see petitions that I disagree with.

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FAIL

It doesn't matter. The whole execution of the concept is a joke

First, you have to get 150 signatures before the petition becomes searchable. That means you have to publicize your petition somewhere else to get things rolling. It also means that they get parallel petitions going, because you can't check before you create one to see if someone has already started the ball rolling. This dilutes support by spreading it across several petitions.

Second, if you bookmark the petition you signed, then, when you go back to check for the response, they don't link to it. You have to search a different area for responses.

Third, the responses get taken down after a few weeks. You can build up signatures for a month, but they can't keep a couple paragraphs of response around for half a year?

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They are NOT listening

However, considering how stupid most of the petitions are, no wonder no one is listening.

Two suggested improvements:

(1) A vote against this petition option, which should bring up a list of reasons why a particular partition is stupid. I suppose if you want a bell and whistle, it should let you pick as many as you like and indicate your #1 reason.

(2) A rule that if a petition that gets more stupid votes than signatures, then that petition gets ignored, even if a LOT of stupid people sign in. (Of course I'm thinking about the Texas petition. Too bad I can't renounce the fact of my birthplace.)

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Re: They are NOT listening

"Crystal Maze"-voting.

If you get a 100,000 MORE "agrees" than "disagrees", you respond to it. Until then, you don't waste your time.

The only problem with that is that there would never be another response and the site would get caught up in the next purge of useless services offered by the previous government masquerading as "cost-saving". But then, maybe that's not such a bad thing after all.

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