White House creates website for online petitions

WASHINGTON (AP) ? The White House is making it easier for people to press the federal government to act.

It is bringing that constitutional right to petition one’s government into the digital age with a webpage, “We the People,” where people can create and sign petitions seeking the government’s action on a range of issues.

An official response is guaranteed for any petition that draws enough signatures ? 5,000 names within 30 days ? after it is reviewed by staff and the appropriate policy experts within the Obama administration.

The White House announced the new page, http://www.whitehouse.gov/wethepeople, on Thursday.

“When I ran for this office, I pledged to make government more open and accountable to its citizens,” President Barack Obama said in the announcement. He said the new feature will give Americans “a direct line” to the White House on issues that most concern them.

The online petition program comes as Obama has been urging the public to press their representatives in Congress to act on his ideas for creating jobs and balancing the federal budget.

To emphasize word-of-mouth organizing, a petition’s Web address initially will only be known by the person who created it. The address is not supposed to show up anywhere else on the White House website until 150 signatures have been collected.

The first online petitions can be created later this month.

The White House already accepts petitions through its correspondence office and that is not expected to change, officials said.