© Photograph: Lucasfilm/Ronald Grant Archive
Recent petitions have asked the White House to allow Texas to secede, to deport Piers Morgan and to build a Death Star.
After We the People site sees surge in popularity, Obama administration quadruples the previous 25,000 threshold.

The White House has quadrupled the number of signatures required to receive an official response to petitions submitted on its We the People website, after a surge in its popularity.

The Obama administration will now only be required to respond when a petition gathers 100,000 signatures, up from the previous 25,000.

Use of the We the People site doubled in the final two months of 2012, when petitions were added to grant Texas the right to secede from the US, to deport Piers Morgan and to keep him in the US ("because the UK doesn't want him"). All easily passed the 25,000 signature threshold.

Macon Phillips, White House director of digital strategy, wrote in a blog post that the site's popularity exceeded the "wildest expectations".

"When we first raised the threshold - from 5,000 to 25,000 - we called it 'a good problem to have,'" Phillips said. "Turns out that 'good problem' is only getting better, so we're making another adjustment to ensure we're able to continue to give the most popular ideas the time they deserve."

Last week, the White House responded to a petition asking for the government to "secure resources and funding, and begin construction of the Death Star by 2016." To which the White House responded by saying: "the Administration does not support blowing up planets", and by asking: "Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?" (The Galactic Empire has since responded to the White House by calling Earth a "tiny, aggressive planet".)

Anyone who provides a name and email address can create a petition on the site, and the White House has said it will now provide an official response to petitions that make the 100,000 signature threshold in 30 days.

White House data show that there are more than 141,310 petitions on the site and that it receives 807 average signatures per hour. It also shows that the 9,178,278 total signatures on the site have been provided by 5,410,525 users.

Some of the newest petitions include "officially recognize the Sasquatch as an indigenous species and have them lawfully protected by laws banning any hunting" (309 signatures) and "Recognize acupuncturist as healthcare providers" (318 signatures). These petitions still fall under the 25,000 signature mark because they were created before the new threshold rule was announced.

The White House surveyed petitioners and learned that 66% found the administration's response to petitions helpful. Half the surveyed signers said they learned something new from the White House response.

Ahead of the change, the White House responded to eight petitions calling for the secession of states including Texas, Louisiana and Tennessee and one counter-petition that calls for the deportation of people who signed a secession petition.

Jon Carson, director of the White House office of public engagement wrote a blog post to respond to the petitions. Carson said: "Free and open debate is what makes this country work, and many people around the world risk their lives every day for the liberties we often take for granted. But as much as we value a healthy debate, we don't let that debate tear us apart."