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12 July 2012
The Referendum Act allows the electorate to trigger a process that can lead to the holding of a referendum. A referendum will be called if:
In addition, a proposed settlement with Guatemala to resolve the Belize-Guatemala dispute would automatically prompt a referendum.
Where a referendum is called by a petition of 10% of the electorate, such petition must contain:
Once the governor general receives the petition, he is required by law to refer the petition to the chief elections officer immediately so that the officer may verify the signatures of the petitioners and certify that at least 10% of registered voters have appended their signatures to the petition. A referendum may also be held in a specific district or area of Belize; however, in such a case the petition must be supported by 25% of the registered voters in the district or area.
Once the chief elections officer receives the petition from the governor general, he must proceed expeditiously in the verification process and is mandated by law to return the petition to the governor general as soon as practicable, but no later than two months from the date of receipt of the petition. The chief elections officer must also send to the governor general certification as to whether the petition has been duly signed by the requisite number of voters. If it is found that a person has forged a signature on a petition, or his or her signature appears more than once, that person shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine of up to BZ$1,000 or imprisonment of up to one year.
The governor general shall issue a writ of referendum to the returning officers of the electoral divisions of Belize (or of the particular district) within 30 days of receiving:
The day named in the writ for the holding of a referendum shall be no less than 30 days after the issue of the writ. Once the writ has been received, each returning officer shall proceed to hold the referendum in accordance with the Referendum Act and the directions of the Elections and Boundaries Commission. The only people qualified to vote in a referendum are registered voters qualified to vote under the Representation of the People Act at the date of the referendum.
Ultimately, no referendum is valid unless 60% of the registered voters in the whole country (or the particular district, as the case may be) have voted. The issue submitted to referendum shall be decided by simple majority of the votes cast. The chief elections officer shall be responsible for issuing a certificate stating the results of the referendum.
The purpose of the Referendum Act is to provide a mechanism for direct participation of the electorate in matters of sufficient national importance. To date, two referendums have been held: one on awarding city status to Belmopan and the other on an elected senate.
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