Authorities investigating ‘suspicious’ envelopes sent to state election offices

By | November 9, 2023

Authorities are investigating a series of suspicious envelopes sent to election offices this week in what a state official called an act of “domestic terrorism.”

Washington Secretary of State Steve Hobbs said in a statement Thursday that envelopes containing “unknown powdery substances” were discovered Wednesday by poll workers in several counties, prompting the evacuation of those offices.

An initial test of a white powdery substance in an envelope sent to the county elections office came back positive for fentanyl, Spokane police said.

Another letter sent to a Washington state election office contained a substance that tested positive for baking soda, not fentanyl, Officer Shelbie Boyd of the Tacoma Police Department told ABC News. The state will take it to a lab for further testing.

Chris Loftis, communications director for the Washington State Patrol, said a state bomb team that visited an election office in Pierce County on Wednesday found a message indicating the intent of the letter was “to stop the elections”.

In Georgia, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger confirmed that election officials in Fulton County had received a suspicious letter and that no other counties in the state appeared to have been targeted.

The letter was intercepted before arriving at the election office, Raffensperger said at a news conference. No motive has been determined, he added.

“We are working with our state and federal partners to determine whether additional Georgia officials are being targeted,” Raffensperger said in a statement earlier. “Domestic terrorists will not trample on our right to free and fair elections.”

A Fulton County spokesperson said no additional information was immediately available.

In Lane County, Oregon, authorities also temporarily closed an election office Wednesday after suspicious mail arrived, a county spokeswoman told ABC News.

“It’s certainly gloomy today,” county spokeswoman Devon Ashbridge told ABC News. “I can’t imagine coming to work and realizing that someone wanted to at least terrorize you and potentially harm you. We are doing what we can to support our staff.”

Although the incident in Oregon had no impact on election deadlines, Ashbridge said the office closure delayed vote counting. The office hopes to be caught up by the end of the day.

California officials also confirmed to ABC News on Thursday that the Postal Service “intercepted two suspicious envelopes destined for local election facilities” but had not yet determined the contents of that mail.

The Texas Department of Public Safety and the FBI are also investigating a letter containing an unknown substance that was sent to the Texas Attorney General’s Office, according to law enforcement. Initial tests of the substance came back negative, officials said Thursday.

Officials did not say whether the letters sent to California, Oregon and Texas were related to letters sent to election offices in Washington and Georgia.

Threats against election workers have become more frequent in recent years, causing a worrying exodus from their ranks in the wake of the 2020 presidential election.

A DOJ spokesperson said in a statement Thursday: “We are aware of these reports and the FBI and the United States Postal Inspection Service are investigating this matter. We have no further comment at this time .”

FBI offices in Atlanta and Spokane confirmed they are working with local law enforcement to investigate the incidents.

“The Seattle FBI, along with our law enforcement partners, responded to several incidents involving suspicious letters sent to vote counting centers across Washington state,” the bureau said. “As this is an ongoing matter, we have no further comment, but the public can be assured that law enforcement will continue to make the public’s safety their top priority.”

ABC News’ Jack V. Date, Luke Barr, Alex Stone and Elizabeth Landers contributed to this report.

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