Belize City: Thursday 6th December 2018
The Re-Registration process is designed to ensure that the names of all new and eligible voters qualified to vote in any particular constituency are added to the list of voters for that constituency. The claims and objections process is intended to seek to fulfil a deeper purpose. It not only seeks to prevent multiple registration but should also allow for unqualified persons to be removed from the list. When this process operates effectively, it should minimize the opportunities for a ‘padding’ of the lists with the names of persons who are not eligible and qualified to vote in that constituency. Put simply the process should seek to protect the integrity of the list of voters. However, the Laws of Belize do not offer enough to fulfil this objective. The Revising Officers (Magistrates) in interpreting the law have set the threshold that the objectors need to prove so high that it seems that only in very exceptional cases an objection will be allowed. It becomes even more difficult since as an objector you are limited to type of documentary evidence you can obtain to prove that a person does not reside at a particular address. This opens the flood gates to corruption.
A simple example of a loophole in the system is that a person can arrive in a constituency in 1 day, register to vote, wait a couple days for Elections and Boundaries to verify their address and then leave. They will remain on the Register unless someone objects and since the burden of proof is set so high it is very likely even if they object under the current system they probably won’t succeed.
As an Objector simply saying that you have lived in the area for many years, you personally know the person and know the person not to reside at the address that they have provided is not enough. Your objection will not be allowed.
It is yet to be seen if the threshold would be met if a relative objects and testifies in Court that a person does not reside at the address they have provided. But how realistic is it that a relative will object to their family? Under this current system also persons that have multiple homes can basically choose wherever they want to register. So if you work during the week in San Pedro Town and you go to Belize City on weekends you basically can register wherever you choose. The ability to choose is what allows for corruption so a political party is able to convince you to register in a particular place.
The Laws of Belize do not properly define the term ‘resident’. In order to prevent corruption, the law should require that you are only allowed to be ‘resident’ in one place; therefore, you can only register in the constituency that you ‘reside’.
The Laws of Belize do not provide for an investigation process by Elections and Boundaries when an objection is received. It does not require that the objected person be questioned and there is also no requirement that they attend court. However, if an Objector does not appear to court to support his objection, the objection is overruled and the name of the person will remain on the register.
It is clear the Laws of Belize are not enough to prevent the ‘padding’ of the voters list. The current system is unacceptable and goes against the purpose of doing a Re-registration exercise. We call on GOB to revise the Representation of People’s Act to prevent corruption and secure the integrity of the voters list.