White House Petition Goose Eggs

Over at the cyber-equivalent of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the White House has a website devoted to allowing citizens to petition the government on various issues. The hook to this site, titled We the People, is that if enough signatures are gathered, the White House will issue an official response. As of this writing, the threshold is 100,000 signatures, but when this website first went on-line, the bar to clear was much lower.

In the past few weeks, there have been petitions that have met the 100,000 limit and are awaiting a response from the Executive Branch. Examples include a request to file charges against 47 Senators who sent a letter to Iran and one requesting laws that forbid mandatory vaccination.

At the moment, this website has on display 168 responses including the response as to why the Obama Administration will not be building a Death Star.

Here is what I found interesting and it deals with zeroes.

When petitions are created, the author can select from a list of categories that cover the issue mentioned by the petition. For example, the petition about the Senators was filed under three issues (Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement, Foreign Policy, and Government Reform). The anti-vax petition also covered three issues (Civil Rights and Liberties, Health Care, Human Rights).

The official responses to petitions have their own page on the We the People website and they are sortable by issue. Of the thirty-nine issue categories, there is one issue that is a runaway favorite. The issue of “Foreign Policy” has thirty official responses, which is the highest number for any issue category. Number two on the list is a tie at nineteen between “Civil Rights and Liberties” and “Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement”. The Foreign Policy responses deal with issues pertaining to Sri Lanka, Venezuela, and the Middle East.

As I said before, it is the zeroes that intrigue me. Of the thirty-nine categories, there are six that have no official responses. It is possible that people have created petitions for one of these forgotten issues, but they have not crossed the signature threshold. Those issues are…

…Arts and Humanities;
…Climate Change;
…Poverty; and
…Urban Policy.

I certainly could read the above orphan categories to mean that it appears that the folks of the United States (at least, the cyber-capable members) do not care all that much about the arts, melting glaciers, the plight of the disadvantaged, workers, or cities.

I could also read the above list to mean that folks in the e-world see nothing wrong with the state of those forgotten issues and so do not need to petition the government for redress.

I wonder which reading is correct.


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