On Wednesday night you heard the Elections and Boundaries Office blaming the PUP for sending in a recall petition that was poorly vetted. And then last night, you heard the PUP saying that the Elections and Boundaries review and ultimate rejection of the recall had holes in it. Who's right and who's wrong? Well, to an extent, they both are. Jules Vasquez looked for answers today:..
Jules Vasquez reporting
This is George Miguel Manzanero. He's a resident of Santa Familia and he has a voters' ID. But the Elections and Boundaries scrutinizers said he's not a registered voter at all - even though on its own master reject list, it assigns him a voter's ID number and here's his name on the most recent list of voters, voter #144761.
"How did you feel when they said that you are not registered?"
George Miguel Manzanero, Petition Rejected
"I feel very bad about that because I am not an alien, I am a Belizean. I think these people are crazy when they did that. I have all the right that's why I came today to show these people that I am a Belizean."
His mother 85 year old Ninfa Manzanero was also disqualified.
George Miguel Manzanero, Petition Rejected
"My mother; when they came to my mother, she got frightened because they say that they will bring the law against her. My mother told me that she had signed the petition and that's why I bring her ID card to show."
In her case, her block signature was rejected - on the original record she had a thumbprint.
In the case of Alvin Gentle Jr, the PUP showed his name on the list and said it was as an outrage that his signature was rejected.
Hon. Julius Espat, PUP Deputy Leader
"Well, this is the fresh Election and Boundaries list that they provide to the secretariat and Mr. Gentle's name appears on the list."
So why was he rejected? Well it turns out he wasn't. Alvin Gentle Jr was accepted - but also rejected - because more than one petition was made in his name. The scrutinizers found that one of the petitions didn't look anything like his signature, while the other did. Because the pensmanship did not suggest that the same person had signed both, they cast one petition aside as rejected and accepted the other. If it had been treated as a duplicate, it would have been rejected altogether.
The explanations get even more complicated in a case such as Ian White Vasquez. He is registered as Ian White. But he sent in three petitions: Ian Vasquez, Ian Vasquez White and Ian White. Ian White at the bottom was the right one, but because the signatures all appeared to have been written under the same hand, he was ruled to have filled out three petitions, which lest we forget.
Josephine Tamai - Chief Elections Officer
"According to the act as well, those persons have committed and offense."
The PUP says they submitted three signatures because they could not know what signature was on the binder - since he had different names on different ids.
And while that case is open to interpretation, how to explain cases such as these where the double or triple petitions are identical - no variance in name or signature, and thus no manifestly good reason to send in more than one.
No reason other than perhaps to pad the list. And this was suggested when the party submitted the names and said that there were 2002 names, when it must have known that 83 of the names appeared more than once, at least 11 had no signatures of any kind, and so there were in fact 1904 identities.
The PUP says it sent in duplicates - in the interest of submitting everything and leaving the decision of what to take ultimately to Elections and Boundaries.
But what they saw as redundancy the elections and boundaries saw as an offence. The office disqualified all those who made duplicate and triplicate petitions - even though their signatures matched. 83 such were rejected - which is open to interpretation:
Mirtle Palacio, PUP Secretary General
"83 plus voters have been arbitral disenfranchised. Even in the spirit of the law every effort is to be made to enfranchised people - this is post 1952, not disenfranchised voters. Even under representation of the People's Act, persons who register to vote twice are not removed from the electoral list under that act. When there is a double voter registration which occurs often for various reasons as in the case of this petition, one of the names remains under the act. You don't arbitral - no one has the authority to arbitral removed a voter as was done in this process."
Mike Rudon - Channel 5 News
"If they signed on it, and their signatures matched, then wouldn't it have made sense to accept one set of those signatures?"
"Well remember, at the end of the day, according to the act as well, those persons have committed and offense."
"Does that mean that because you committed and offence, where does it say that your signature then is rejected because you committed and offence?"
"You won't see that anywhere similarly to how you won't see it saying that you accept it."
Senator Lisa Shoman
"The recall of elected representatives gives the department no such power and yesterday after extensive and heavy questioning by the media the Chief Elections Officer was in fact forced to admit that that is so. She does not possess that power."
"We advised our Party, the legal team of the People's United Party has looked it over and we advised that the decision to reject the signatures can and should be challenge in the Supreme Court of Belize by judicial review on the basis that these decisions were unlawful, unreasonable and in many cases irrational."
The PUP says it is preparing a full report which will inform its judicial review case.