I’m Registered in San Pedro: Voting in Belize
Belizean citizens are entitled to vote in elections when they turn 18 – and guess what? I am now a citizen of Belize (and well over that age requirement).
I am excited to vote in this town, San Pedro, and in this country. It’s my home.
But the actual voting process is new to me. So I thought I’d take you along for the process.
Also: Citizens of commonwealth nations – Malaysia, Canada, UK, et al – who have resided in Belize for at least 12 months are also eligible. Note: There has been quite a bit of talk with the current administration about leaving the Commonwealth – I assume that means that this rule will be removed? A referendum is needed. Stayed tuned.
Yesterday I registered to VOTE in Belize. And it was easy. So let me tell you how I did it and a bit about the Belize government and voting system.
Important! There is a time limit if you want to vote in next March’s municipal election. Here they are:
- If you are transferring (from another district in Belize) – the deadline for transfer is August 31, 2023. THIS MONTH! Here are the official rules.
- If you are registering for the first time, you have until January 10, 2024.
But first, a few facts and frequently asked questions about the Belize System.
A Few Government and Elections FAQs
- There are 2 main parties in Belize, PUP and UDP: Peoples’ United Party (Blue) and United Democrat Party (Red)
- There is no president of Belize, there is a Prime Minister. There are 6 districtshttps://www.sanpedroscoop.com/belize-map split into 31 constituencies (for the last election). At the national level, each constituency votes for an Area Representative. The party that has the most Area Representatives gains the PM role as well. (For more detailed info)
- Like the British system, National elections must be called and can be held at any time of year. Town and city elections are scheduled for the first Wed in March of every third year (2024 is the next local/town election)
- Every five years or so, the national elections are announced by the PM. And requires only a minimum of just one month of campaigning time. (US Citizens…doesn’t that sound delightful?) The timing is carefully strategized. Does the other party seem disorganized? Has there just been a huge scandal on their side? Has your party done something popular? Might be a good time to call elections.
- You’ll know when it’s election month – t-shirts, booths, golf carts full of campaigners in red or blue, songs, rallies, events, cheap beer…it’s on.
- The winner is in and the loser is out. Immediately. Unlike the US system where there is a pass-over/transition period (peaceful we hope) – in Belize, the winner is in the next day. And the parading ensues (in “normal” years)
- Election Day is a national holiday. And there is no alcohol served or sold this day. At least until the votes are counted.
How I Registered to Vote in San Pedro
Last week I was sworn in as a citizen of Belize and my #1 priority was to register to vote. Here are all the official requirements to register.
There are quite a few voter registration offices throughout the country. In San Pedro, our Office of Elections and Boundaries is located on Middle Street – behind the Post Office in the big yellow building. (Fun-ish fact, there is a pool on top of that building!)
It’s a surprisingly large office filled with 4 or 5 employees, lots of papers, binders and maps. The Elections and Boundaries Office. There is also a bound book of registered voters in San Pedro that you can look through if you like…but it can not be removed from the office.
I gave them my required ID. My brand new Belizean Nationality Certificate…which I am keeping carefully tucked in a plastic envelope until I apply for my Belize passport.
I had my picture taken, and I was asked a few questions – my residence, profession, if I have a neighbor who can vouch for me, what the house looks like, if am I married…
From walking in the door to getting my receipt, it was about 25 minutes. And I can check in about my Voter ID card in one month, September 8th.
I am excited. And, like so many others, I want my vote to be counted next March.
Next year I’ll have my first purple finger! (This proves that you voted)