BELIZE CITY, Fri. Oct. 16, 2020– During a virtual press conference held on Friday, October 16, Prime Minister Dean Barrow announced that COVID-19 positive patients in quarantine will not be able to participate in this year’s general elections.
“It can’t be permitted. If you are COVID-19 positive, you are supposed to be in quarantine either at a government facility or at your home,” PM Barrow said.
The current amended Quarantine Regulations legally require that persons infected with COVID-19 undergo a mandatory quarantine. Breaking away from this directive would require additional amendments to the legislation, pointed out PM Barrow, who added that making adjustments to accommodate voting by infected persons would present a logistical difficulty.
Barrow also said that citizens who are already second-thinking going to the polls because of increased COVID-19 infections would be more fearful if infected persons were allowed to vote. Barrow said, “I suspected that the fears of those that are not positive, but who already have reservations or perhaps are in two minds of whether they will exercise their franchise, those fears would become even more pronounced. So, while it is extremely regrettable that if you are COVID-positive, in effect you are not able to exercise your franchise, we don’t see that it can be otherwise.”
When asked if proxy votes would be considered for those infected persons unable to make it to the polls, Prime Minister Barrow said that they would not make any attempts to facilitate this type of voting by quarantined persons.
“Certainly, proxies are out. It’s already a huge, complicated, nightmarish system to administer. The proxy system currently exists in terms of public officers, in terms of the security forces and their needing to vote by proxy. I don’t see us trying to, in fact, extend that to COVID-positive people. How do you verify that? This is completely out of the question,” he said.
Also, Belizean citizens who are registered voters but are living in neighboring, bordering countries will not be able to vote in this year’s general elections.
While the Prime Minister pointed out that the government is open to suggestions from the Elections and Boundaries Department, he said that he personally does not see how it can happen.
“Speaking for myself, I don’t see how that can happen,” Barrow added. “If they have to quarantine, then they can’t go out to vote, because they should be at home,” he said.
While the land borders remain closed, a relaxation of restrictions on movement for Belizeans, permanent residents and those with special land and business interests was announced by the Prime Minister.
Under the new regulations, SI 149 of 2020, persons entering the country through the Philip Goldson International Airport (PGIA) will not be mandated to go into self-isolation, provided that they can present a negative PCR test result. This means that those Belizeans registered to vote who enter the country through the PGIA will, in fact, be able to participate in the 2020 General Elections.
Public concerns have been raised regarding the constitutionality of barring a registered voter from exercising their rights under section five of the Representation of the People Act.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow, in his response, pointed out that no constitutional right is absolute.
“Now, I understand the argument about constitutional rights, but, remember, no constitutional right is absolute. You can derogate from constitutional rights on an emergency basis,” he said.
The People’s United Party is yet to release an official position on this decision by the current administration.