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UDP reluctantly backs not allowing voters with COVID-19 or from Diaspora to vote

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Posted: Monday, October 19, 2020. 6:56 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Is it fair that voters afflicted with COVID-19 must be disenfranchised, safety concerns notwithstanding, if for example, Antonio “Tony” Herrera is allowed to be nominated despite still having a chance of transmitting the virus?

It is part of the wider concerns about the Government suddenly relaxing travel restrictions in a move some believe is calculated to help its chances on Election Day.

We put the question to party leader Patrick Faber and he responded that it is ultimately a matter for the Elections and Boundaries Commission.

But he explained that there is “an abundance of caution for the voters countrywide. Those 800 or whatever number it is of persons who would vote would be engaging all across the country if they are allowed to vote; the ballot papers that they vote on will be in all these ballot boxes across the country because we don’t know where they lie; you are right, some of them may well come from the Collet area. But in the case of a candidate – and again I don’t foresee, I can’t really see how between now and Wednesday morning, Wednesday afternoon when our party goes to get nominated, that anybody else at this time deemed to be COVID-19 positive since the mere swabbing and testing takes a few days. So, it has to be that it is only Mr. Herrera, which is one case versus so many other cases.” Herrera, he added, is past the two-week mark at which contagion of the virus is eliminated, so there is a chance he tests negative on Tuesday and can participate in person on Wednesday.

The decision to bar COVID-19 positive voters came from Cabinet and is unanimous as with all decisions from that body. Asked whether the Cabinet considered potential proxy voting, Faber admitted he wished that a solution could be found that both allowed COVID-19 positive voters to vote and guaranteed the safety of those they may come in contact with; but, he said, “our assessment of the situation, our 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 absolute regard for such advice.”

Concerning persons living abroad, registered, and wanting to come home to vote, Faber said he personally has never relied on “foreign votes” in his three terms: the relaxations are strictly for the benefit of tourists and those Belizeans being repatriated home who complained of harsher conditions for their return.

“While we might know the number of voters who are outside of Belize, there is certainly no attempt on the part of my campaign to bring those voters home to Belize in order that they may participate. I have always relied on those voters who vote here in Belize and who live here in Belize,” Faber said, adding that those who do come will not be turned away whether in Collet or elsewhere. Given the current COVID-19 situation, it would be irresponsible of any major party to encourage that,” he added.

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