--Overview--                                         February 5, 2004                                                     ...
Overview of Voter Education/Community Outreach                                                                  Initiative...
Five brochures entitled All About Us, Voter Registration - All You Want To Know, The ElectionProcess, The Referendum Act a...
voters. Countrywide activities include Open House at every office, participation in talk shows, quizcontests, and dissemin...
Presentation by Hon. Francis Fonseca, Minister of                                                                   Educat...
Presentation by Myrtle Palacio, Author                                             The Journey continues …….              ...
A Critique by Ms. Brenda Armstrong, Principal -                                                              Wesley Colleg...
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Voter Education Book Launching--February 5, 2004

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Voter Education Book Launching--February 5, 2004

  1. 1. --Overview-- February 5, 2004 An official ceremony to launch a new publication "A Framework for Voter Education" was organized by staff members of the Elections and Boundaries Department on Thursday February 5, 2004. The venue was the Radisson Fort George Hotel in Belize City. Ms. Ernestine Carballo led the audience with the singing of the National Anthem and the occasion was blessed by The Most Reverend Osmond P. Martin, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church. Mrs. Sharole Saldivar, Acting Assistant Chief Elections Officer presented an overview of the Departments Voter Education and Community outreachinitiatives since 1999 and was followed by the Keynote Address by Hon. Francis Fonseca, Ministry ofEducation.Two prominent members of the community reviewed the book, Ms. Brenda Armstrong, Historian andPrincipal of Wesley College, and Hon. Godwin Hulse, Senator. The author Mrs. Myrtle Palacio, ChiefElections Officer presented remarks on the book.The book is a 100% production of the Staff of Elections and Boundaries Department in its continuingendeavour in Voter Education.
  2. 2. Overview of Voter Education/Community Outreach Initiatives Presented by Sharole Saldivar, Ag. Assistant Chief Elections Officer A pleasant good morning and welcome to the launching of the booklet, A Framework For Voter Education; another testimony of the Elections and Boundaries Departments mission of commitment to the enhancement of democracy through voter education and the maintenance of a legitimate, impartial, valid electoral process, and its goal to encourage public participation, forge partnerships andprovide efficient and effective service delivery.The essence of true democracy is an informed, actively participating electorate. The law empowersthe elector to play a major role in the electoral process, unfortunately, this seldom occurs. As anelection authority, one of the functions of the Elections and Boundaries Department is to gather anddisseminate information on the electoral process… to heighten awareness…to educate…to providethe tools and support necessary to attain an accurate, transparent electoral system…to forgepartnerships…share, link, network, reach out to like organizations and stakeholders…with theobjective of strengthening public confidence in the department and in the electoral system, andincrease voter participation.The department launched its Voter Education Campaign in November 1999 with an official openingceremony in Belize City. District Offices countrywide celebrated a "Voters Day", including an OpenHouse. Activities included displays; quiz contests, and demonstrations by staff. Also launched was afirst publication entitled, Selecting Our Leaders - Past and Present, researched and written by thethen newly appointed Chief Elections Officer, Mrs. Myrtle Palacio. This monograph focuses on theprocess of selecting leaders from the days of colonial establishment, and includes statistical data onTown Board elections results from 1963 to 1997.A website, belize-elections.org, came into fruition in November 1999, through collaboration with aprivate sector organization, Netkom Internet Solutions. It serves as a tool for voter education andoutreach to the wider community and carries information about the Commission and Department; itsfunctions, goals, mission statement and activities. It is updated regularly with statistical information onelectoral registration. During elections, the website provides timely reports for media houses and thegeneral public. Visitors frequent the site every nine minutes and spend an average of ten minutes.The website has attracted over 70,000 hits.In 2001, as an initiative of a member of staff, an EBC library corner was launched at the CorozalLibrary. Library corners have expanded to Benque Viejo del Carmen, Orange Walk, San Joaquin,Dangriga, and Belize City at the Leo Bradley, Thurton and Port Loyola Libraries. These cornersfeature the departments publications, and are updated regularly.The department has also participated by offering information and registration services to the public…at an annual BDF day in 2001… at an all day Youth fair held at the BTL Park in 2002, and in a rallysponsored by students of the University of Belize to urge youths to participate in the pendingReferendum, by providing posters and brochures, and by training seven of their leaders.To transmit information pertinent to stakeholders the department utilizes print medium. Severalpublications have been produced. The departments newsletter, which was implemented in 2000 asan interdepartmental outlet, is produced monthly and has expanded to include articles relevant to thepublic. The newsletter is widely circulated and is hosted on the departments website.
  3. 3. Five brochures entitled All About Us, Voter Registration - All You Want To Know, The ElectionProcess, The Referendum Act and Boundary Redistricting have been produced by the department.Three manuals entitled Manual for Election Officers, Guide to Election Officials, and Election DayGuide for Political Agents, have been produced to sensitize Public Officers, Polling Agents and otherstakeholders about rules and regulations pertaining to elections, and their roles in the process.Annual reports, reports on elections, and on participation in electoral missions are produced andwidely distributed.The booklet being launched today, "A Framework for Voter Education" consists of a collection ofsalient, topical areas for voter and civic education. Our vision is to have this all-inclusive resourcematerial utilized in our schools as a part of a civic education programme.All publications produced by the department are hosted on the website, and are available forreference at all our offices, and at the EBC library corners.The departments voter education campaign has extended to respective target groups, whichincludes visits to tertiary and secondary level institutions, non-governmental organizations, and othercommunity group. Over two hundred schools and organizations have been visited to lecture on theRegistration and Voting Processes and to apprise on the Role of the Department.Training for Public Officers is continuous. In preparation for election over 1500 Public Officers havebeen trained to conduct elections.In 2003, the department participated in the Clerical Programmes, which are coordinated by theMinistry of the Public Service, by presenting the topic, The Electoral Process, to fifty-seven SecondClass Clerks. The department also participated in a two - hour presentation on the role of theDepartment and Commission, and Voter Registration, to police recruits at the Police Academy in theCity of Belmopan.Four workshops have been conducted for representatives from the media, civil society, politicalinstitutions, and church organizations, under the theme, National Dialogue for a Culture ofDemocracy. Topics discussed were, The Role of Stakeholders, the Registration Process, theRevision Process, and Boundary Delimitation.In October 2003, a nationwide tour was conducted for students at the tertiary level and otherstakeholders on the topic Boundary Delimitation.Since its inception in 1999, Voter Appreciation Day continues to be an annual event held to honour
  4. 4. voters. Countrywide activities include Open House at every office, participation in talk shows, quizcontests, and dissemination of flyers, brochures and other publications.The department continues to utilize the media as a communication tool for voter education. Talkshows are held countrywide on a regular basis. Press releases are prepared and transmitted tomedia houses to inform about events and other information considered relevant to stakeholders.To provide more efficient service, an office was opened in the City of Belmopan in 2001, to offerregistration and voter education services to the Cayo South Constituency, which was previouslyserved from an office located in Benque Viejo del Carmen Town. Similar services for the Belize RuralNorth, Central and South Divisions, are now offered from an office located on New Road and for theStann Creek West Electoral Division, services are now being offered at a sub-office in the village ofIndependence. Registration service is provided for San Pedro Town and Caye Caulker Village on atimely basis.To ensure outreach, the department networks with individuals and public and private sectororganizations.  Through a partnership with Vital Statistics Unit in 2001, a six-month AKA Amnesty Project was launched. The primary objective was to give electors, who registered in 1997/98, with AKAs or with mothers maiden names, the opportunity to legally change their surnames to the surname of choice via deed poll.  For the March 2000 election, Central Statistical Office and several tertiary level institutions nationwide assisted with data collection at all polling stations.  The Vehicle Care Unit, the Ministry of Works, Womens Department, Rural Development Department, Immigration and Nationality Department, Archives Department, Police Department and the former Printing Department, have assisted the department in its many endeavours.  The National Library Service has assisted in providing space for our EBC library corners. The library staff also facilitate by maintaining the library corners.  From the private sector, individuals have facilitated in training of staff and presentations at workshops. The company, Netkom Internet Solutions, has been instrumental in maintaining the departments website.  Individuals from the media have facilitated by presenting at workshops. Media houses have facilitated by publishing press releases, advertisements, and articles.The staff serves a unique clientele of past, present and future employers in an environment that ishighly sensitive. "We are in the election business, where failure is not an option". In a continued effortto deliver quality, professional service, training is an integral part of the departments strategy. Aholistic programme aims at developing the entire person and not only the skills to perform specifictasks. The department complements staff individual self-development with training in the rules andregulations relating to the job, and with training in Customer Service and Customer Relations.Reflective of Belizes culture, the staff is ethnically diverse, and serves the public in four differentlanguages.The departments Voter Education and Community Outreach Initiatives have resulted in an increasein the publics confidence in the department. Voter registration and turnout is constantly increasing.These initiatives, symbolize our commitment to accomplish our mission…our COMMITMENT toenhance and safeguard democracy for the future generations of Belizeans. We will continue tohonour our commitment…we will continue to beg… borrow… force our way if we have to. Oursuccess is contingent on the continued support of YOU the stakeholders.
  5. 5. Presentation by Hon. Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education Senator Godwin Hulse, Bishop OP Martin, Ambassador Regla Diaz, Ambassador Charles Tsai, Dr. Joseph Palacio, Chief Elections Officer Mrs. Myrtle Palacio, Chairman Carl H. Menzies, Members of the Elections and Boundaries Commission, Distinguished Guests, Staff of the Elections and Boundaries Commission, friends.It is indeed a pleasure and an honor to be here with you this morning as we launch the bookletentitled, "A Framework for Voter Education".The booklets stated objective is "to provide a resource for organizations or individuals who wish toeducate Belizeans on the rights and responsibilities of electors, as well as those desirous ofdeveloping curricula in Civics". Having read the booklet from cover to cover late last night, I can saywith confidence that this stated objective has not only been met; it has been surpassed.The booklet takes its reader on a concise, yet engaging and stimulating journey through BelizesElectoral System from its often misunderstood constitutionally created structures to its more familiarpublic Voter Registration process. It is easy reading and its learned author was graciouslyeconomical in her use of words.While politicians and party activists will find the book most useful, I believe its greatest beneficiarieswill be our Nations students and teachers. For them, I believe this booklet is a must read and theMinistry of Education will work to ensure its accessibility to them.I have also found the booklet to be timely, coming at a time when as a Nation and a people, we haverecognized the need to meaningfully develop and enhance our Civics Education Curriculum. Withclose to 50% of our population having been born in an Independent Nation State of Belize, it is easyfor us to lose sight of how dramatically and effectively our democratic structures have evolved, and ofthe tremendous vision and courage displayed by those who worked and sacrificed tirelessly to createthat Nation State we now so proudly call Belize.Too many of our young people have opted out of the democratic and electoral process. For toomany, voting is simply a means of ensuring an opportunity for access to an Area Representative forthe next five (5) years. "If I no vote, the man no wa wan see me". This thinking is of course too oftennurtured and supported by politicians who themselves have lost faith with the broader and morenoble rights and responsibilities of the elector.This booklet will be an important tool as we embrace the growing challenge of voter apathy andmisinformation. Belize has a proud and rich electoral history grounded in the fundamental principlesof respect, peace and integrity. This booklet captures that history and builds on it.I congratulate Mrs. I. Myrtle Palacio for this important work which follows in the tradition of her otherhigh quality, well researched contributions in this area. Mrs. Myrtle, you are a strong, proud Belizeanwoman. We are proud of you and thank you for your continuing commitment to Belizes social andpolitical development.
  6. 6. Presentation by Myrtle Palacio, Author The Journey continues ……. There are two electoral management bodies in Belize-The Elections and Boundaries Commission and the Elections and Boundaries Department. Both work in tandem and are entrusted by law with the vital functions and exclusive powers to execute these functions to ensure free and fair democratic elections in Belize. The key issue in electionorganization then, is the ability of the Election Management Bodies to generate confidence in theelectoral process. Ladies and gentlemen, Fellow Belizeans, THAT IS THE BOTTOM LINE. We atElections and Boundaries Department are in the business of elections, and FAILURE is NOT anoption.How can this best be achieved? Well welcome to the journey! Our journey at theElections and Boundaries Department.After conducting a situational Analysis in 999, the Department set out to create positiveorganizational changes and improvements in operational performance. Armed with a Mission, Goalsand Objectives, we chose a direction of 1. Transparency and 2. Voter Education-both go hand inhand, because knowledge and participation is meaningful in any working democracy.The Electoral List is the lifeblood of our democracy as it determines WHO will participate in theelection long before Polling Day. Therefore the Electoral List is a crucial feature in the organization offree and fair elections, and as such, the Department has devised a strategy to include stakeholdersas partners to help us ensure that those who get on the list are duly qualified to do so. The law alsoempowers individual electors to peruse the list and object to any person, with basis, who should notget on the List or remain on the Electoral List. BUT do we know these laws?The trends towards economic globalization are having an impact on our social and political arena.The electoral processes cannot escape this global phenomenon. Democracy is one of the most usedterms in the international political jargon, and is highly promoted in the agenda of international bodiesas an ideal to be pursued-the WILL of the people must be heard through their voice at the Polls. BUTthe WILL of the people must be preceded and accompanied by the knowledge of our laws and in thiscase the laws that govern the election and registration processes. Do we know these laws? What areour rights and responsibilities under these laws?We at the Department value you as partners-the Church, the political party/Activist, the privatesector, Mr. Jose Citizen, Civil society-in building and maintaining our democracy. In this light I inviteyou to read and comprehend the contents of this book. There is no room for analysis unfortunately,as it is a book on the facts of law. The style and size is deliberate, so as to attract our youngerBelizeans, a large percent of whom were born after Belizes independence. In particular I inviteeducators from both formal and informal institutions to use it as a resource for civic education. Thebook is not copyrighted, again this is deliberate, so that one can duplicate it if needs be.Transparency + Voter Education --- Power to us as Belizean Electors
  7. 7. A Critique by Ms. Brenda Armstrong, Principal - Wesley College Presentation  Conscious attempt to be pleasing to the eye  Creative use of graphics, bullets and colour  Good sequencing  i. Historical perspective presented before what exists ii. Definitions set out before terminology useContent  Wealth of information  Inclusive of every aspect of electoral process, both historical and contemporary info  Provides view of responsibilities of persons involved in the process (including the objector)  High value of the "What is" approachUsability  Level of language makes it suitable for wide range readers - teenagers to adults  Valuable to the casual as well as the intense researcher  Can be used by persons wishing to impart or gain knowledge  Should become a part of personal as well as public libraries and definitely school librariesCongratulations to the writer - research well done, presentation of data clear, and educationalvalue promising. An investment that should produce great dividends.

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