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White House shuts down petition site, promises to resurrect it next year

We the People under construction

The White House is removing its public petition system, promising that a new version is coming in late January. The Associated Press reported the news yesterday, and the system went offline late last night, after a year of neglect by the Trump administration. An official told the AP that the change would “save taxpayers $1.3 million annually,” although we don’t know precisely how.

The We the People site, which launched in 2011, offered users a guaranteed (albeit often slow) response from Obama’s White House if they gathered 100,000 signatures on a petition. By the AP’s count, 17 Trump-era petitions met this standard before the site went offline, covering a wide range of subjects. Some were critical of Trump — one asked him to release his tax returns, for instance. Others argued both for and against funding the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. One asked Trump to designate investor George Soros, the subject of numerous political conspiracy theories, a domestic terrorist; another did the same for members of the anti-fascist “antifa” movement. All petitions are now inaccessible, since the website is “down for maintenance,” and the administration hasn’t responded to any of them.

That’s supposedly changing next year. “All existing petitions and associated signatures have been preserved and will be available when the site is relaunched. Following the site's relaunch, petitions that have reached the required number of signatures will begin receiving responses,” reads the new petition landing page. The White House’s overall disorganization in 2017 doesn’t bode well for this actually happening — but if it does, given the topics in question, the results could be surreal.