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9/1/2011
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White House.gov Intros E-Petition System

Citizens can more easily engage with government officials through grassroots organizing tool.

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The White House will soon offer people the ability to submit e-petitions online via its website to top federal officials in an effort to inspire grassroots political action on the Web.

Through an initiative called We the People, people can create or sign petitions that call for federal action on a range of issues, according to a post on the White House blog by White House director of digital strategy Macon Phillips.

If a petition gathers more than 5,000 signatures in 30 days, a group of appointed White House staff will review it, route it to an appropriate office, and generate a response to it.

In addition to helping people get their issues in front of officials faster and more efficiently, We the People also wants to encourage Internet-based political organization, according to Phillips. "There's another aspect to this meant to emphasize the grassroots, word of mouth organizing that thrives on the Internet," he wrote.

The White House got the idea for the initiative from one already in place in the United Kingdom that allows people to create petitions online, Phillips said. "This work was very helpful as we developed our own," he said.

To facilitate online word-spreading, a petition created on the site initially will have a unique URL that will only be known to the person who created it; it won't be available anywhere else on the website.

To make sure other people see it and can sign it, the petition's creator must share it with their own networks and gather at least 150 signatures before people can search for it on WhiteHouse.gov, according to Phillips.

The White House is seeking public advice on the initiative through numerous pages on the WhiteHouse.gov site that include a feedback form. People also can submit feedback on Twitter via #WHWeb, or email questions to Phillips himself on Twitter via @macon44.

People also can sign up for an e-mail alert to be notified when the system is available.

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