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Jul 24, 2020

CJ Rules in Favour of Lord Ashcroft to Provide Expert Input in Redistricting Case

Andrew Marshalleck

This morning in the Supreme Court ruled against the injunction filed by the Attorney General on behalf of the Ministry of Labour for the Port of Belize stevedores, and this afternoon the Chief Justice, Michelle Arana ruled in favour of the Interested Party in the Redistricting case, Lord Michael Ashcroft, to provide expert input in the case.  The case was brought about in December of 2019 by the Belize Peace Movement against the Government and the Elections and Boundaries Department to cause a recalibration or a redefinition, otherwise called a redistricting to occur.  This, in the claimant’s perspective, would result in fairer election results because of what they consider are huge disparities in the number of voters in the country’s electoral divisions.  Lord Ashcroft joined in as an interested party several months ago and through his attorney, Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck, indicated that he is willing to provide, at his own expense, inputs from international experts that would be beneficial to the case. Marshalleck made an application for those experts to be permitted to give their inputs and today, newly-appointed Chief Justice, Michelle Arana ruled in favour of that application.  In court this afternoon, Marshalleck used as the example of the Fort George constituency which has some two thousand voters and compared that scenario with the Stann Creek West division, which has over ten thousand voters.  In making his submission, Marshalleck asked, “Are we saying that someone in Fort George is worth five times a person in Stann Creek West?”  Marshalleck told us right after the ruling what the experts would bring to the case.

 

Andrew Marshalleck, Attorney-at-law

“What we are asking is for the expert to look at the state of the registers and generate a report based on certain instructions we’ve settled in order to assist the court in resolving the claims in the case. One of the first claims made is for a declaration that the state of the register is such that elections based on those registers can’t be called democratic in that they do not meet basic democratic thresholds. You see, for the vote to be democratic, you need equal voting rate as far as it is possible. And the disparities between constituencies are so great that it undermines whether or not an election held on the basis of those divisions can really be called democratic. So we need somebody with that expertise to look at the state of our registers and to do the kind of analysis that they do and let us know what is the state of it. I suspect that to all our shock and dismay, it may well be that given the disparities that exist, you could hardly call elections that they take place here has been truly democratic.”


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