Posted: Tuesday, December 13, 2022. 5:23 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: The Supreme Court has brokered a consent order between multiple petitioners loosely grouped together as the Belize PEACE Movement and the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) binding them to conduct a full redistricting process and present the results by July of 2023.
As enumerated by lead counsel Arthur Saldivar, the parties agree that “All further proceedings in this claim be stayed upon the terms set out in the Schedule hereto except for the purpose of carrying those terms into effect [and] Liberty to apply as to carrying such terms into effect.”
The claimants have agreed with the defendants (the Elections and Boundaries Commission, represented by its Chairman, and the Attorney General, with Lord Michael Ashcroft as an interested party) the following:
1) The Parties acknowledge that given the current distribution of registered voters in Belize it is necessary for the Elections and Boundaries Commission to consider the distribution of voters and make recommendations for the amendment of the First Schedule to the
Representation of the People Act to re-define current electoral boundaries;
2) The Elections and Boundaries Commission shall identify and explain in a written report its recommendations and all proposals considered necessary for re-districting as provided by the Belize Constitution generally and section 90 of the Belize Constitution in particular, and shall share the report with the Claimants on the date the report is laid before the National Assembly or the 17h July 2023, whichever is earlier, or such other extended date as agreed between the Parties;
3) The First Defendant (the Chairman of the Commission) shall cause the preparation of a draft bill pursuant to section 90 of the Belize Constitution to amend the First Schedule of the Representation of the People Act to reflect the recommendations of the Elections and Boundaries Commission as made in its said report and the Elections and Boundaries Commission shall lay the proposals before the
National Assembly before July 31, 2023;
4) The Parties agree that in this process the Defendants shall consult the guidelines set out in the Court’s expert report of Sean P. Trende dated October 14, 2020; and
5) The Defendants shall bear the reasonable costs of the Claimants to be taxed if not agreed.
Co-Counsel Michelle Trapp stated that Trende’s report, among other things, found at the time it was written, only five of Belize’s 31 electoral divisions met the international standard deviation of registered voters, generally between five to 15 percent with allocation made for sparsely populated areas.
Saldivar made note that since the Government has at times gone back on its promises, especially in the case of the Maya Land Rights case, it is up to the press and the public to hold the Government accountable and address the imbalance which presently makes Belize worse than even totalitarian regimes with regard to the weight of each person’s vote and which strains the ability to provide services where it is most needed.
BPM chairman Robert “Bobby” Lopez told us that the BPM will not presume to advise the EBC on how to do its job – whether the current redistricting process results in more divisions, fewer, or the same is not the primary concern; that the divisions are equal is.
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