Belize is a democracy. Elections happen with regularity and voters have strong feelings about both leading major political parties.
A friend of mine recently observed Belizean politics in action and found himself dismayed by one particular aspect: paying for votes.
The practice, by which a person connected to a candidate offers money to secure a vote, is tolerated. In some cases, a would-be voter asks for the money before the handler can even get his or her campaign spiel off the ground.
For voters in a poor country, a proffered “blue note” (hundred-dollar bill) can mean food, a paid bill or school fees. My theory is that people take the money and vote for whomever they feel like on Election Day.
In the United States, the money flows the other way: Millions of dollars donated to campaigns. (This happens in Belize, in smaller amounts).
There are the modest donations that individual voters send, in the hope their contributions will help pay for TV ads, bumper stickers, or campaign volunteers’ coffee.
Then, there are there big checks written to candidates, PACs and causes. The donors are banking on the fact that winners will not be able to forget all those zeros when the time comes for favors and special consideration.
And, yet. And, yet. The ability to vote in an election has an addictive quality; we are hooked on the idea that each of us can make a difference.