The country of Belize has been divided as to whether or not to take the Belize-Guatemala dispute to the International Court of Justice, ICJ, for final resolution. The governing party and the opposition have both publicly and passionately stated their position. The opposition went even further by convincing the court to grant an injunction postponing the April 10 referendum. As a result, the government went ahead and passed a new referendum bill dubbed the Belize (Territorial Dispute) Referendum Bill, 2019. Under the new bill, the ICJ referendum is now scheduled to take place on Wednesday May 8, when the citizens will get to decide the fate of this nation. Josephine Tamai, the Chief Elections Officer spoke to the media about the voting procedure on the scheduled day.
Josephine Tamai – Chief Elections Officer: “I want to go over the reasons that a ballot paper could be rejected because again as voters I believe that the public needs to ensure that they mark their ballot paper properly in order to ensure that their vote counts. Any ballot paper which is in the box that does not have the presiding officers initial on that ballot paper will be rejected at counting so again I want to advise persons to be vigilant and ensure that the ballot paper that the presiding officer gives to you has his or her signature on that ballot paper. That is the signature of the presiding officer and that is the same ballot paper that they are required to put in that box. Again if the voter has voted for more than one choice, remember in this case you only have a yes or a no. If you put your x beside yes and no your ballot paper will be rejected. We don’t know if you wanted to vote yes or if you wanted to vote no so in that case your ballot paper will also be rejected. Some people choose not even to mark the ballot paper, they go in, get the ballot paper, it is not marked for yes or no again that ballot paper automatically has to be rejected because you cannot count it for any of the two options. Another reason why the ballot paper would be rejected is if any voter marks the ballot paper in order for them to be identified as an individual so if I go and put Josephine Tami or make some statement on that ballot paper and it can be traced back to me, again that ballot paper is rejected. Remember you vote must be a secret so the secrecy must not be compromised at any time. Also any ballot paper that is unmarked or is voided for any uncertainty, let’s say for example the x is marked on both yes and no and it is uncertain on how that voter intended to vote again that ballot paper will be rejected so I want to encourage the Belizean public to ensure that when you go in before you make your choice ensure that you mark your x beside your choice. Whatever your choice is you need to mark your x beside that so take extreme care in marking your ballot paper so that your vote is counted.”
The Elections & Boundaries encourages the public to allow their voices to be heard by going out to cast their vote. There will be a total of three hundred and forty-four polling stations, which will be open from seven in the morning to six in the evening on May 8.