The recent, much-contested gay rights ballot initiative in Anchorage, Alaska – which would have banned discrimination in the city on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity had it passed – has put the city at the centre of a huge controversy over allegations of voter fraud, disenfranchisement, uncounted ballots and more.

The results of last Tuesday’s vote on Proposition 5 appeared to suggest that 58 per cent of people had voted against the measure. However, a surprising number of irregularities have left these results open to question.

Over half of Anchorage’s voting districts reportedly ran out of official pre-printed ballots and the Municipal Clerk’s office has said that there were over 1,400 “unscanned ballots” left uncounted by official Accuvote machines. There have been reports that such things as photocopied sample ballots were substituted instead. Mayoral candidate Paul Honeman even said that some voters actually used serviettes as ballots.

Also, the Anchorage election rules allow those who are not on the city’s electoral roll to submit a “questioned ballot,” which is sealed and taken into account by a commission appointed by the mayor. More than 6,000 of the 50,000 votes cast on Tuesday were questioned ballots.

Anti-gay activist Jim Minnery has been accused of encouraging illegal vote casting. It doesn’t help his case that he sent an email to his followers saying: “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?” Though there was no truth in this – voters must be registered 30 days before an election

The Anchorage Municipal Clerk, Barbara Gruenstein, said on television that she had reason to believe people from outside the city were trying to cast votes. This means that even if these people has no success in voting, their presence would have had a hand in ensuring the ballots unexpectedly ran out.

Municipal attorney Dennis Wheeler has been hired by the city to investigate the claims, but ACLU of Alaska director Jeffrey Mittman has pointed out that Mr Wheeler works for Anchorage mayor Dan Sullivan – who won in Tuesday’s election – and thus there is a clear conflict of interest.