Registration officer having problems with Chief Elections Officer Print E-mail
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Thursday, 18 April 2019 00:00

Chief Elections Officer Josephine Tamai has come under fire from a member of her staff, who has accused her of breaking regulations so that a voter could have been re-registered in time for the ICJ referendum. That staff member further alleges that when she refused to go along with Tamai’s order to facilitate this voter, Tamai allegedly victimized her. The Chief Elections Officer has since responded in the press to categorically refute these allegations as false.

In a letter dated, April 11, 2019, attorney Darrell Bradley wrote the chief to formally address a list of complaints from his client, Jerrylyn Bruce, a registering officer with over 15 years of service at the Elections and Boundaries Department. His letter starts off by noting that she has “truthfully slaved” in her post, working “tremendous hours of over time” as the only full-time member of the department that is assigned to handle four constituencies in Belize City. Bruce had to ensure that the voters list for all of these constituencies was accurate and ready for the April 10 Referendum, which the PUP blocked from happening with their Supreme Court injunction.

Bradley then moves on to make Bruce’s official response to a March 2019 letter that Tamai sent to her, which was captioned “Failure to carry out Directives, Omitting Applicants from Registrar of Electors and Monthly Supplemental list”.

The main complaint from that previous letter was about Trevor Arthur Charles Bradley, a voter from the Caribbean Shores Constituency, and an avid supporter and campaigner for the UDP in that division. In an interesting twist, Bradley is reportedly a campaigner for Darrell Bradley in Caribbean Shores. Through her attorney, Bruce recounted the series of events from her perspective about why she could not allow Trevor Bradley to be re-registered in time for April 10 Referendum that should never have been postponed.

Darrell Bradley’s letter notes that Trevor Bradley went to the Elections and Boundaries Department on July 26, 2018 to apply to be re-registered as a voter. At the time, he only produced his social security card as proof of citizenship. According to the documented policies at the Department, his application was placed on a pending list, which required that he bring further identification documents to prove his citizenship. His information was sent to the Vital Statistics Unit to check to facilitate the confirmation. The Vital Stats Unit could not find proof of Trevor Bradley’s citizenship, and so a notice of disallowance was mailed to him to inform him that he could not be re-registered for lack of proof. That notice returned undelivered.

On March 14, 2019, eight months after his first attempt to re-register, Trevor Bradley returned to the Elections and Boundaries Lumber Yard Office to inquire about his re-registration. That’s when Bruce was able to inform him that he needed to bring further documentation to prove his citizenship. He brought his passport to hand over on the following day as proof. Unfortunately, however, the deadline for re-registration, in order for voters to participate in the Referendum, was March 12.

Trevor Bradley did not meet that deadline, but apparently, he went and complained to the Chief Elections Officer, and according to Bradley’s lawyer letter on her behalf, the Chief then directed her to include Bradley’s name on the list of voters eligible to participate in the referendum. According to Bruce, she demanded that Josephine Tamai put that directive in writing as proof of the directive, and that’s when Tamai targeted her and transferred her from her post to the Central Office.

According to Darrell Bradley’s letter on Bruce’s behalf, “What was wrong is that because Mr [Trevor] Bradley is a well-known member of the United Democratic Party, his complaint to you seemed to have been given special significance.”

Bruce further alleges that Tamai replaced her at the Lumber Yard Office with a junior officer, and that “the intent of this can only be to ensure that the Elections and Boundaries Department can be manipulated for political purposes”.

On Bruce’s behalf, Darrell Bradley also addressed why the voters, David Richard Bradley and Manuela Catalina Marin, also didn’t make the list of re-registered voters. From her perspective as the registering officer, the electronic registration database that the Elections and Boundaries Department uses has a flaw in it, and caused their applications to not be included on the list of voters initially. Bruce corrected that issue for both of these voters as soon as she realized that it happened.

PUP Senator Eamon Courtenay put Chief Elections Officer Tamai on blast at the April 15, 2019 meeting of that upper chamber.

Shortly after that, Chief Elections Officer Tamai responded to the allegations via comments to the press. She said, “I want to state that the accusations made by Ms. Bruce and for her saying that I am asking her to do things that are against regulations, I want to refute all those matters.”

Tamai was also scant on the details of this particular case noting that Bruce may end up having to answer to the Public Service Commission, and so she didn’t want to prejudice the case.

She added, “I will tell you, that person applied for registration from the 26th of July 2018. That person and any other person who came in without documentation only with a social security card, those information are being sent to us to verify. And I will tell you, despite the fact that the officer is saying that that verification was done all the way up in March, I have the proof otherwise.”

She asserted that this was why she had to step in, and that she did not take any action to bring her post as Chief Elections Officer into disrepute.

She said, “It is my responsibility to ensure that persons are not disenfranchised. I don’t care what party the persons are. To be honest with you, I don’t even know if the person has any political affiliation. That is none of my business when it comes to that. Each and every single eligible voter, or each person who is eligible to get registered, it is my duty to ensure that that happens.”

It is noteworthy that in the past, Bruce has appeared before the public services commission on at least five other different occasions for various reasons. She has however been able to keep her employment as a public officer.


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