Chief Elections Officer explains why $8,000 signatures rejected
The referendum on oil exploration has been rejected. It’s a major setback for the Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage that collected a total of twenty thousand, one hundred and sixteen signatures to trigger a referendum on oil exploration, both offshore and in protected areas. The Coalition received the bad news on Wednesday when the Governor General wrote them to say that eight thousand signatures had been rejected after vetting by the Elections and Boundaries Department. That represents forty percent of the petition list. According to Chief Elections Officer Josephine Tamai, the signatures were turned primarily because of poor penmanship. The government is coming under a lot of heat from the environmentalists and this afternoon at a press conference in Belmopan, Tamai outlined the reasons why the signatures were excluded.
Josephine Tamai, Chief Elections Officer
“We were given fourteen officers to assist in that exercise; those officers were deployed specifically for the referendum exercise. While verifying the signatures, we noticed that some of the signatures that was presented—some of the forms rather—majority of them had six names on one sheet. Oceana did a little bit of exercise and some that were duplicates; they actually marked out as duplicates before presenting it to us. So we didn’t count those. In all a total of twenty thousand one hundred and sixty signatures were reviewed by the department. Like I said, these do not include those which Oceana identified as duplicates. At the date of presentation of the petitions, the total number of electors on the approved voters list was one hundred and seventy-one thousand, four hundred and five. Therefore the required ten percent would have to be seventeen thousand one hundred and forty registered voters and that is according to the act. According to the act because it si a national issue—it is not for one specific division—we need to look at the list that we have for the entire country of Belize. Of the total signatures that were reviewed a total of twelve thousand one hundred and thirteen were accepted as those signatures matched those that we had on the record cards. In order to do the verification process, what we had to do was individual take out the record cards that we have on file to verify those signatures because those are what we use because when a person goes in to register, the information is placed on a record card and they need to sign it. A total eight thousand and forty-seven signatures were rejected which made up the forty percent. Signatures that were reviewed were rejected for reasons; majority of them the signatures just didn’t match the signatures that we have on the record card. We also had those whereby thumb-prints were used on the record cards, but yet on the petition we had signatures. We had a few, very minimal; that the persons didn’t sign the petitions any at all. The information was filled out but no signature on it. We also had some that we noticed the persons had different surnames.”