POPVOX high-fives “We The People”


Today the White House released  its online petition site, We The People . This is an exciting time for innovation in technology for civic engagement. We applaud this latest effort, which is in line with the President’s #AskObama Twitter Townhall and the House Majority’s ” YouCut ”  crowdsourcing effort around the budgeting process.

At every level, it is clear that elected leaders want to hear from the people they represent — a thesis we wholeheartedly agree with at POPVOX (from vox populi , the Voice of the People). Macon Phillips, White House Director of New Media, and the WhiteHouse.gov team have led this charge since the early days of the Administration.

Our CTO, Josh Tauberer, notes that the release is in line with the goals of the 2009 Open Government Directive as well. “It’s three goals were transparency, participation, and collaboration. This site seems to be their participation project. Transparency was  data.gov .  Collaboration is ExpertNet .”

The site’s response guarantee after 5,000 signatures is not without political risk, and that in itself is a good thing.  As Donald Rumsfeld said, “Democracy is messy,” and frequently petitions sites are too. (If past efforts are any indication, the President should be preparing his response on marijuana legalization for later today.)

Later clarifications today (via Twitter from @Macon44 ) regarding routing input to appropriate agencies and privacy policies are encouraging:

Macon Phillips (EOP)

@macon44 Macon Phillips (EOP)

@nancyscola People shouldn’t have to decipher how the executive branch is organized in order to speak out about an issue. <cont>

Macon Phillips (EOP)
@macon44 Macon Phillips (EOP)

@u62 only a small group of wh staff will have access to administrative data We the People will be subject to a public privacy policy.


As the Executive Branch embarks on this endeavor, it will be important to clarify the site’s role as a way of communicating with the Executive Branch, on issues under the purview of the Executive; not as a substitute for the vital Constitutional role of constituent-to-Congress communication on pending legislation and case work.

Josh said it best in his tweet his morning: “We the People, official site from  @whitehouse , looks to be a refreshingly innovative idea.”

Kudos to Macon and the “We the People” team from Team POPVOX!