Over 29,000 vote in Oceana’s Referendum
Close to thirty thousand registered electors voted on the issue of offshore drilling on Wednesday. By any stretch, it’s a huge turnout for a relatively short campaign that led to the mock referendum organized by the Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage. After fourteen hours of voting countrywide, the final results were tabulated by three o’clock this morning at the Oceana offices. News Five’s Isani Cayetano has the story from start to finish.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
The constant hum of scrutineers as they carefully reconciled each ballot cast during the People’s Referendum on Wednesday was a call and response that continued into the early hours of this morning. A team of approximately twenty men and women, all volunteers who gave of their time willingly, huddled inside a makeshift counting station where they pored over each vote; a process easily described as redundant and lengthy.
Audrey Matura, Vice President, Oceana Belize
“In each box we have two counters and that counter has a tally and so we open the box for the first time with the lock so everybody could see and one person takes out the papers and when they take it out they show it to the person who is tallying and see that it’s a yes or a no and hands it to the other person who then keeps track of it.”
At 10:30 the supervisors were nowhere near the median for Belize District. The counting was uninterrupted and perpetual. What they were in search of were names which corresponded with specific constituencies in order to determine if there were multiple votes cast.
“In every area where they were voting we took down the names of the persons who voted and then we would cross tally and see if more than one time the persons name came up. We need to do that because obviously there was some mischief being [done], trying to occur and sadly the people who were trying to do the mischief obviously are from the present government or the U.D.P., outright the U.D.P., their operatives and it’s just a reflection of how low they think of the people and what they would do. The other form of reconciliation that we would be doing is we’ll be looking at each box, what’s the total, looking at the ballot papers that we had, that we printed. We know how many we printed, we know the serial number and we’ll be reconciling that to make sure that the amount of ballots that were in the boxes were the amount of what we finally got.”
And that conclusive figure was realized after several hours of calculation. The exercise, nonetheless, was not meant to sway voting on Election Day despite offshore drilling being a hot-button issue.
Tanya Williams, Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage
“Our intention wasn’t trying to influence the election. Our intention is to ensure that the Belizean people have a voice on this particular issue; it’s a very critical issue. It affects our economy, our environment and our culture. So in terms of influencing the election and what the election will look like that’s not our position and never was our intentions.”
Back at the counting station the team diligently endured the examinations, casting aside a total of a hundred and forty-three votes as spoilt ballots.
“We had a hundred and forty three spoilt ballots and when we say spoilt like there are some instances where people voted one way and then maybe changed their minds and they scratched it but we had to consider it as spoiled. Some people put an x in the box and in the other one, they started a stroke; that was spoiled. Some people it was clear that they used both boxes and so it had to be spoiled.”
At dawn the final tally for those against offshore drilling stood at twenty-eight thousand, two hundred and eight, representing ninety-six percent of the total who participated in the unofficial referendum.
Yasmin Andrews, Pollster
“I could say that these results, I am ninety-five percent sure that they are correct; however, the good thing when we were tabulating last night up to three a.m., when we were tabulating this morning and we were getting the results we could see that the aggregate results of the, now remember now when we also asked if people wanted the opportunity to go and vote alright, so when they actually went and vote look at the consistency and the reliability and validity of these results of these polls. We said, again, ninety-four point three percent said no, eighty-nine percent equivalent said no and when they actually went to the polls and vote, look at the result ninety-six percent.”
The remaining four percent, a meager seven hundred and ninety-nine voters, were in favor of offshore drilling.
“There were some people who actually said yes to offshore drilling. They were in the minority but they were saying yes. So the reason we are having this referendum is not because we want everybody to come and say no, we want people to express their position on this particular issue.”
The next step for the Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage is to bolster its argument against oil exploration in Belize’s maritime boundary having had more than the requisite ten percent of the electorate voicing its disapproval for any such activity. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.
Voting was steady all day on Wednesday; in the city over nine thousand participated and the Cayo District placed second in the number of voters that turned out.