Want to Petition the President? There's an App for That

OK, not quite. But an API released in October now allows developers to create apps and websites that can send petition signatures to the White House for official response.

by / November 6, 2014
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Petitioning the president has just become easier: The White House announced in late October that developers have finally been given access to its online petition platform “We the People.”

White House Director of New Media Technologies Leigh Heyman wrote in a White House blog that through the work of 18F, the federal government’s contract development team, officials have realized wishes to open the petition system up to third parties. The takeaway? That companies and independent developers can now use mobile apps, Web platforms, social media and websites to officially submit petition signatures.
“The Write Application Programming Interface (API) enables people who want to sign White House petitions and engage in the conversation on We the People without visiting WhiteHouse.gov,” Heyman wrote.

Once validated, the electronic signatures will be tabulated to meet the 100,000-signature threshold required by law for a formal White House response. Since the site was launched in September 2011, the administration has sought to open it up to developers, and did so with a beta API deployment in November 2013. To date, the platform touts 16 million users that have drafted and signed 360,000-plus petitions.

The API is on track to ratchet up those numbers with a line-up of new offerings from the private sector. Heyman said the White House anticipates the update and its open access will spur more development activity and public engagement.

“This is where it gets exciting,” Heyman wrote. “In addition to expanding the audience and making it easier than ever to sign We the People petitions, the Write API [the API sending petition data back to the White House ] opens up a host of new possibilities, such as new mobile apps and ways to sign petitions via social networking, or new possibilities we’ve yet to imagine.”

The administration plans to soon host a series of hackathons to spotlight usability and potential API applications, and foster collaboration for new applications. The release, Heyman said, represents a milestone long awaited. But now, he wrote, “That big day has finally come.”

To get started working with the API, users must apply for a key.