The White House and FBI have both released statements about the incident.
Suspicious letters have been reported at election offices in multiple states this week, and officials said that fentanyl was found in several of them.
In Washington state, election offices in King, Pierce, Spokane, and Skagit counties were evacuated as workers counted ballots during the Tuesday election, the secretary of state’s office said in a statement. Officials discovered that some of the letters contained “trace amounts of fentanyl” inside them, while some others had an “unharmful” substance inside.
“The safety of staff and observers is paramount as elections workers across the state open envelopes and count each voter’s ballot,” Washington Secretary of State Steve Hobbs said in a statement. “These incidents underscore the critical need for stronger protections for all election workers. Democracy rests upon free and fair elections. These incidents are acts of terrorism to threaten our elections.”
In Georgia, a letter was sent to officials in Fulton County, said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office during a news conference. He claimed the letters were “domestic terrorism.”
The secretary claimed that the envelope tested positive for fentanyl, although a spokesperson said it’s not clear yet. “There’s been a little confusion, so that letter has not been intercepted yet, nor has it been tested,” the spokesperson told Axios on Thursday.
“Some people like to call fentanyl a drug, but it’s actually poison. It’ll kill you. It’ll kill you very quickly, very easily. It’s very dangerous,” Mr. Raffensperger said.
In a statement, the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service said that four of the letters contained fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid responsible for hundreds of thousands of overdoses in recent years. Letters were also sent to Oregon, Nevada, and California, officials said.
“Law enforcement is working diligently to intercept any additional letters before they are delivered,” the agencies told The Associated Press.
The Pierce County auditor’s office in Tacoma, Washington, released images of the letter it received to the AP, showing it had been postmarked in Portland, Oregon, and read in part: “End elections now.” King County Elections Director Julie Wise said that letter appeared to be the same one her office got—and that it was “very similar” to one King County received during the August primary, which also contained fentanyl.
The U.S. Postal Service said it intercepted two suspicious envelopes that were headed to election facilities in Los Angeles and Sacramento, California. Authorities in Lane County, Oregon, which includes the University of Oregon, said they are probing a piece of mail that arrived at the local election office Wednesday.
The incident prompted officials to close the Lane County office and delayed an afternoon pickup of ballots. Devon Ashbridge, spokeswoman for the Lane County Elections Office in Eugene, declined to provide further details. “Someone attempted to terrorize our elections staff, and that’s not OK,” she said.
California’s secretary of state, Shirley Weber, a Democrat, confirmed letters were sent. An investigation is underway, she said in a statement.
“Federal and state authorities are investigating the incident, but there has been no confirmation that these envelopes contained any toxic substances,” her statement said.
Cisco Aguilar, Nevada’s secretary of state, said in a statement his department was aware of letters that were sent to local election departments, according to a statement.
“We are aware of the reports of suspicious letters addressed to election offices in multiple states, including Nevada, and we are in communication and coordinating with federal, state and local agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Postal Service, the Nevada Department of Public Safety and the Office of the Governor. As this is an ongoing investigation, we have no further comment at this time,” Mr. Aguilar said.
And White House spokeswoman Olivia Dalton told AP that the Biden administration was aware of the investigation: “We are grateful for the election and poll workers who served this week to ensure the security of our democratic processes.”
Earlier this year, around 100 Republican lawmakers received letters with white powder inside them, prompting the FBI to investigate. The letters, mailed earlier this year, were sent to GOP officials in Montana, Kansas, and Tennessee.
The letters, according to reports at the time, contained cryptic instructions that appeared to be designed to get the recipients to open them.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.