The Chief Elections Officer and her team are trying to ensure another round of free and fair elections during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. And so, she is hoping that the candidates, the political parties, and the voting public will cooperate with the election officials to ensure that the democratic process will not pose a public health threat.
Here's what she told us about the municipal election protocols, informed by what worked and what didn't, during the November 2020 General Elections:
Josephine Tamai - Chief Elections Officer
"After the General Elections, we wanted to find out if any areas needed to be addressed or needed to be improved in terms of the protocols that we had in place when it comes to the municipal elections. So, what I did, I had meetings with the Ministry of Health to find out what we could do better, or what we could do, or what we needed to improve on. We know that we're in a pandemic right now,"
"And we have to ensure the safety of all the voters, all the public officers, and safety for the Belizean citizens as well. So, we had a meeting, and we discussed the protocols that were in place for the general election, and we realized that what we did then worked extremely well, in terms of managing the polling station. That is an area where we agreed that it's best for us to proceed as we did with the general election. So, we know that the use of a face mask is mandatory - actually, it's the law, So, persons will have to use their face mask. Persons will have to sanitize upon entering the polling station. They will also sanitize once again just before they dip their finger in the indelible ink. The persons will also use a sanitized pencil at all times. Public officers will be provided with the appropriate PPE's, similar to what did for the General Elections in order to protect them so that they are safe."
"We also need to ask the public to do their part to ensure that they utilize their face mask, and to use it properly. That's one of the areas where the Ministry of Health has emphasized to us to please ask the public for proper use of the face masks."
"So, the removal of face masks momentarily for a few seconds. Will that still happen?"
"Yes, it is very critical because yes, even though people would say, 'But, why are we removing our masks,' we have to properly identify voters in or to ensure that the person who is voting is who they say they are. So, what we have emphasized though is for the general public. Persons will be required to momentarily remove it, probably for 10 seconds maximum. But, we're asking that persons do not speak while that mask is being removed. Our officers, the public officers are trained to not ask any questions from any voter, when that mask is being removed for that 10 seconds."
"Police have already indicated that they will ensure that on election day that they will ensure that the laws are followed strictly. The police will not be there to be arresting people as such, basically, to guide and encourage persons to follow, we people to come out and vote in a safe manner. Again, the police can only do so much. Our public officers can only do so much. We need to request the assistance of the public as well."