Voting is a constitutional right that is on the verge of being taken away from over one thousand persons who are COVID-19 positive. In a press conference on Friday that Prime Minister stated that those under quarantine would not be allowed to vote. We sought a legal opinion on his statement from Attorney, Richard “Dickie” Bradley in terms of the possibility of proxy votes.
Richard Dickie Bradley, Attorney at Law: “That the law, Representation of the Peoples Act, stipulates who are lawfully allowed to use proxy vote. Proxy votes is a big thing in larger democracies you are living abroad that doesn’t deprive you of being able to cast your vote. In the case of Belize we have limited the category of persons who can cast a proxy vote. A proxy vote means for example that police officers who are on duty are given a form which they will sign in the presence of a Justice of the Peace as witness to say that I am authorizing my wife, my brother, whatever, family member, good friends to vote on my behalf so the election officials know who all are allowed to have proxies and who all have appointed a particular person to be their proxy so that they have that on record so on election day a person turns up the authorities in respective divisions know that okay the actual voter is a police officer, a medical worker, a public officer who is doing election duty and so on and so forth. The law lays down who are allowed to utilize the proxy votes meaning somebody is your agent voting on your behalf. There is no provision in the law for persons with health problems or infectious disease to vote by proxy. Had we been discussing his matter ahead of time, had we been doing this perhaps the authorities could have given thought to making an amendment to the law to allow for proxy voters for COVID persons but we don’t have that culture. We are not a people who look into the future, we don’t do no planning so here we are the House of Representatives has been dissolved so they can’t make any law, they can’t change any law, they can’t amend the proxy law so that route is not available because we’re not a forward looking people who are discussing and planning matters so that is not an option at this late state.”
So, how will the authorities identify whose Covid-19 positive and who is not? That is the question posed for election day. Police Commissioner says nosy neighbors will tell.
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “The good thing about Belize we have a number of nosey people right ? It is that even though we don’t have the list your nosey neighbor will know and your nosey neighbor will tell the police and believe you me 100% of the time when the nosey neighbor says” My neighbor is COVID positive and is walking about.” when we go it’s true the neighbors know. So I’m sure that on election day the neighbors are going to be the eyes and the ears of the police and anyone who is found breaching quarantine or breaching isolation they’re going to be deal with. We have to understand that while yes we all have the right to vote that right must not trump the public right to be healthy and the right of others to avoid being infected by you. So at the end of the day we are going to do what needs to be done to ensure that whatever the law is that it is carried through.”
Faber also spoke on the issue and on proxy votes. According to Faber, the decision was one made collectively in one of the Cabinet meetings.
Hon. Patrick Faber, Leader, United Democratic Party: “Well I am a part of the Cabinet and the Cabinet is still very functioning and in fact it was a decision that all of us made so I stand with that decision yes. I wish that there could be something that could be done to guarantee the safety of all the other people who would participate in the election and still we would be able to not disenfranchise those COVID-19 positive voters however our assessment of the situation or advice from those in the health authority continue to point to this being a hazard, a threat and so the decision that we made was in absolutely regard for such advice.”