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‘Boots’ strategic with Recall Referendum's timing and scheduled Municipal Elections?!

Former UDP Port Loyola Area Representative (AR) Anthony “Boots” Martinez submitted 1700 recall petition signatures to the Governor General on Tuesday, thereby, triggering a process that could see incumbent AR Hon. Gilroy Usher facing a recall vote simultaneously with the March 2024 municipal elections.

 

The law (the Recall of Elected Representatives Act) mandates that petitioners must gain at least 30% of the registered voters in a particular constituency. Given that Port Loyola hosts 4,950 electors, the estimated threshold is approximately 1485. Therefore, once verified by Elections and Boundaries, those 1,700 signatures signal that Martinez was able to secure support from just about 34% of Port Loyola’s electors.

 

Last July, when Martinez launched the recall petition, he had assured that he would be able to gather no less than 50% of electors’ support. He had also set and missed two self-imposed deadlines within which time he would supposedly have hit that 50% target.

 

Nevertheless, neither the failure to meet his self-imposed deadlines nor the higher thresholds have any bearing on the matter, as the law only requires 30% of the constituents in a division to support the initiative.

The Governor General is required, by law, to forward the submissions to the Elections and Boundaries Department that will now be tasked with vetting the signatures within a month’s time.

 

Once the Elections and Boundaries Department confirms the validity of the signatures, the law states:

 

“The Governor-General shall, within fifteen days of the receipt of the certificate from the Chief Elections Officer pursuant to section 5 of this Act, verifying that the petition has been duly signed by the requisite number of electors as specified in sections 3 and 4 of this Act, issue a Writ of Recall Referendum … to the returning officer of the respective electoral division. The day named in the Writ for the holding of a recall referendum shall not be less than fifteen days after the issue of the Writ.”

 

The combination of the Election and Boundaries Department’s 30 days, the Governor General’s 15 days to submit the Writ of Recall Referendum, and the fact that the time between the issuance of the writ and the actual referendum must be within 15 days, the law, therefore, informs that the recall referendum should be held within two months’ time.

 

The first month is for the verification of the signatures by the Department. Given that Martinez submitted the signatures on Tuesday, January 16th, this first phase should be completed by mid-February. If the signatures survive the vetting, then the recall referendum should be held around mid-March 2024, a timeframe that coincides with the scheduled municipal elections.  

 

Last September, Martinez had told the media he had already achieved the 30% threshold, but cited certain factors that motivated him and his team to press on for a 50% target. That said, given recent pattern with referendums—such as those pushed for under the Referendum Act by the Churches regarding marijuana legalization and Oceana’s regarding offshore drilling—being deferred, the timing of Martinez’s submission might be strategically aimed at getting ahead of any cost-related arguments against holding the recall referendum. If held in March, Martinez’s recall referendum could ride on the shoulders of an already scheduled election, thereby, keeping costs of holding the recall at a minimum.

 

Furthermore, for a recall referendum to be valid, section 7(2) of the Recall of Elected Representatives Act requires that “at least sixty-five per cent (65%) of the registered electors in the respective division have cast their votes.” This too is another benefit of Martinez ostensibly timing his submission to overlap with the municipal elections when the political parties would already be mobilising their respective resources to augment voter turnout.

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