Posted: Tuesday, February 22, 2022. 1:07 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: The long-awaited redistricting exercise that will shape how Belizeans vote for at least the next decade is scheduled to get underway in earnest.
Chief Elections Officer Josephine Tamai is scheduled to speak to the press this afternoon after being named head of a five-member task force given the job of reshaping Belize’s electoral boundaries and potentially adding new ones.
On Monday afternoon, the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB) announced its full support of the Belize PEACE Movement’s “efforts to encourage and force the Government of Belize (GOB) to implement the fair representation principles of the Belize Constitution.”
Only hours after its demand that Government takes action, the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) issued a press release of its own, stating that it now has the funding to undertake the exercise and the appointment of a task force for groundwork, advice, and report of recommendations to the five members of the Commission: Chairman Oscar Sabido Puga and members Philippa Griffith-Bailey, Orlando Espat, Alberto August and Martin Conrad Lewis. Griffith-Bailey and August, the latter a former EBC chairman, represent the United Democratic Party and Espat and Lewis the People’s United Party.
Joining CEO Tamai on the task force are a cross-section of technical experts in fields ranging from geographical information systems, legal studies, and statistical analysis to electoral management. They are Crown Counsel in the Attorney General’s Ministry Paula Hender; Ministry of Natural Resources’ Principal Planner Shirley Humes and Senior Lands Officer Alfred Cal; and statistical analyst in the private sector Martin Aldana.
The EBC provided detailed terms of reference for the task force which includes among other things the review of current electoral divisions per section 90 of the Constitution to “as nearly as may be, an equal number of persons eligible to vote;” to delimit boundaries with respect to population, polling areas, district and village boundaries, geographical features and so on, and to compile a report with their recommendations for submission to the EBC, which will, in turn, submit it to the National Assembly. If approved, the new boundaries would go into effect at the next general election.
The EBC said, “The public is hereby assured that the Commission has placed high priority on this most critical exercise which is expected to be concluded in the year 2023.” This would put it in time for municipal elections due in 2024 and general elections due at the latest by 2025.
We’ll have more from CEO Tamai’s press conference later on.
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