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Recall February 16th! First deadline for Port Loyola Referendum process approaches

Belize City, Feb. 13th, 2024—Twenty-eight days after former Port Loyola Area Representative Anthony “Boots” Martinez’s January 16th submission of his recall petition against Hon. Gilroy Usher, the once four-term legislator says he is yet to hear anything back from the government.

 

According to the Recall of Elected Officials Act (“the Act”), legally, the authorities—in particular the Chief Elections Officer (“CEO”)— have until Friday, February 16th; therefore, Martinez says he remains hopeful that he will be hearing from them by the end of the week.

 

In line with The Reporter’s previous reporting, Martinez confirmed that he has sought to strategically time the recall referendum to have it coincide with the upcoming local government elections.

 

“I am hopeful that the referendum could be held the same day as the municipal elections which are scheduled for March 6th, 2024,” said Martinez who indicated that he had attempted to time the recall petition against Usher to achieve just that.

 

While Martinez awaits a reply, it must be noted that the Act does not mandate the CEO to inform the petitioner. It only requires that the Chief Elections Officer reports back to the Governor General, to whom the petition is made.

 

Section 5 of the Act states:

 

“On the receipt of the petition from the Governor-general, the Chief Elections Officer shall proceed with due expedition to verify the signatures on the petition and return the petition to the Governor-General as soon as practicable but no later than one month after the date of receipt of the petition, with a certificate as to whether or not the petition has been duly signed by the requisite number of electors as specified in sections 3 and 4 of this Act above.”

 

Nevertheless, Martinez explained that he remains confident that the signatures, 99% of which he claims to have collected personally, will be able to withstand the scrutiny of the Elections and Boundaries Department.

 

With that said, Martinez also said that he is also optimistic that a referendum to unseat the Hon Gilroy Usher as Area Representative of the Port Loyola Constituency is on the horizon.

 

Readers would recall that Martinez submitted the 1,700 signatures to the Governor General on Tuesday, January 16th. According to section 4 of the Recall of Elected Officials Act (“the Act”), the Governor General would have “forthwith” referred the petitions to the Chief Elections Officer for the verification “of the signatures of the petitioners.”

 

The Process and the Municipal Elections

 

Once the Elections and Boundaries Department confirms the validity of the signatures, the law states that the “Governor-General shall, within fifteen days of the receipt of the certificate from the Chief Elections Officer … issue a Writ of Recall Referendum.” That adds, at most, another 15 days to the process (45 days), which would be about March 1st, 2024—merely five days before the scheduled March 6th Municipal Elections.

 

However, at the immediate next stage, the law does not set a maximum, but rather a minimum. The Act stipulates that the day set “for the holding of the referendum shall not be less than fifteen days after the issue of the Writ.”

 

As a result, should the Governor General’s office takes the full 15 days—afforded it by law—to issue the writ of referendum, it would mean that the Governor General would be bound, by the Act, to set the date of the referendum on March 15th or later.

 

Consequently, for Martinez’s recall to be held simultaneously with the municipal elections, it would require the Governor General to issue the Writ of Referendum no later than Tuesday, February 20th, assuming, of course, the minimum of 15 days (from the issuance of the Writ) will be utilized.

 

Whenever the referendum is held, section 7(2) of the Recall of Elected Representatives Act also requires that “at least sixty-five per cent (65%) of the registered electors in the respective division have cast their votes.” The relatively large threshold for turnout is another motivation for Martinez ostensibly timing his submission to overlap with the municipal elections. The political parties would have already been mobilizing their respective resources to augment voter turnout.

 

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