With a population of less than 300,000, Anchorage is hardly a teeming metropolis. But a recent gay-rights ballot initiative has put the Alaskan city at the center of a big election controversy, with allegations of voter fraud, disenfranchisement, ballots being uncounted and more.
Under debate is the results of Tuesday’s vote on Proposition 5, which would have banned discrimination in the city on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. While it appears 58% of the electorate voted against the measure, numerous irregularities have brought these results into serious question:
* More than half of the city’s voting districts reporting running out of official pre-printed ballots and the Municipal Clerk’s office has acknowledged that there were more than 1,400 “unscanned ballots” not counted by official Accuvote machines. Reports of unauthorized substitutes, including photocopies of sample ballots, have surfaced in the media. Mayoral candidate Paul Honeman claims some voters were forced to use napkins as ballots.
* The Anchorage election code allows people who don’t appear on the voter roll to submit a “questioned ballot,” which is sealed and then evaluated by a commission appointed by the mayor. Of the roughly 50,000 votes cast on Tuesday, more than 6,000 were questioned ballots—as compared to 1,060 such ballots in last year’s election.
* Anti-gay activist Jim Minnery (right) has been accused of encouraging illegal voting in Tuesday’s election: Minnery sent an email out to his followers asking, “Did you know that people can register and vote at the same location and it doesn’t even have to be at their precinct location?” (This is actually not true: Voters must register 30 days before an election.)
Later, a post on Minnery’s Protect Your Rights: Vote NO on 5 Facebook page again claimed it was possible to register on Election Day.
Attention Young People or First Time Voters – YOU CAN REGISTER AND VOTE AT THE SAME LOCATION TODAY !! It is super easy. Take a few minutes TODAY and stop by a polling station, register to vote (all you need is your AK driver’s license) and cast a NO Vote on Prop. 5. We really need you to vote. Tell at least 3 of your friends how easy it is.
* Barbara Gruenstein, Anchorage’s Municipal Clerk, told KTUU Channel 2 that she had reason to believe people from outside Anchorage were attempting to vote in the election. Even if they were ultimately unsuccessful, their presence would have no doubted added to the long lines and ballot shortages widely reported.
The city has appointed municipal attorney Dennis Wheeler to investigate these voting irregularities but ACLU of Alaska director Jeffrey Mittman claims that since Wheeler works for Anchorage mayor Dan Sullivan—who won handily in Tuesday’s election—there’s a clear conflict of interest. (Mittman’s got a little conflict himself: He headed up the One Anchorage campaign, which pushed for Prop 5.) The ACLU is calling for “an independent, special counsel to investigate the conduct of the April 3, 2012 Municipal Election.”
The contentious presidential election of 2000 had a smaller number of irregularities and it still wound up going to the Supreme Court. We have to think this situation deserves a lot more scrutiny by open and impartial parties.