White House creating 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 age-old constitutional right to petition one’s government into the digital age with a new webpage, “We the People,” where members of the public will be able to 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 administration, according to White House officials who previewed the details for The Associated Press.

The White House planned to launch the page Thursday on its official website, http://www.whitehouse.gov.

The administration officials requested anonymity to discuss details before the formal announcement.

“When I ran for this office, I pledged to make government more open and accountable to its citizens,” President Barack Obama says in the taped announcement. He says 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 officials said.

The White House already accepts petitions through its correspondence office and that is not expected to change with the new webpage, according to the officials.