Thanks to advance notice by the U.S. Postal Service, on Monday morning, Thurston County Auditor Mary Hall intercepted an envelope that matched the description of those sent to other county elections offices in the state containing “suspicious” white powder.
County staff immediately isolated the “suspicious envelope” and turned it over to law enforcement, according to a news release.
The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office on Monday afternoon confirmed the envelope contained a white powder that tested positive for fentanyl.
According to Hall, the U.S. Postal Service was able to track down an envelope addressed specifically to Thurston County Elections after other county elections offices in Washington received mail containing fentanyl.
Hall said the mail was sent in a standard No. 10 envelope, not an official ballot envelope.
As reported by The Seattle Times, Skagit, Pierce, King and Spokane counties each were mailed envelopes with white powder around election day. Pierce County confirmed the substance in its envelope to be baking soda, while Spokane and King counties both received a substance that included fentanyl, according to The Seattle Times.
“(Postal Service staff) were able to track it … after other offices had received others looking the same,” Hall said of the envelope. “So, we were forewarned.”
Thurston County confirmed the envelope did not contain a ballot. Asked whether there was a message in the envelope, Hall said she had not seen the contents of the envelope, but knew that other county elections offices did receive notes.
Pierce County Elections provided photos of the outside of its suspicious envelope and of a message included inside to several elections offices and press outlets. Inside it was a piece of paper marked with three arrows, a symbol used by the anti-fascist group Iron Front, along with a pentagram and a flag printed in black and white, accompanying a message that said, in part, “End elections now.”
The investigation in King County was turned over to the FBI, and Hall said the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office would be contacting the federal agency. Hall also said she contacted Homeland Security and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Ballot processing and results from the Nov. 7 election were not impacted, according to the news release, which also stated the office has “taken precautions to protect employee health and safety during ballot processing” which will continue until election certification on Nov. 28.
Lewis County, according to Chief Deputy Auditor Tom Stanton, has not received a suspicious envelope.
After King County received a threatening letter in August, Stanton said the Lewis County emergency management and public health departments equipped election staff with Narcan, a brand name for the medication naloxone, which rapidly reverses the effects of opioid overdose.
Staff from the other county offices also hosted training on Narcan administration for temporary and permanent elections staff, Stanton said, and election workers are handling all ballots with gloves.
“We really appreciated emergency management and the health department stepping up and helping us out,” Stanton said.
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