WA Secretary of State calls suspicious envelopes 'terrorism' after election center evacuations
Washington's top election official is condemning recent scares at election centers as “acts of terrorism.”
Election offices across four Washington counties received suspicious envelopes with unknown powdery substances Wednesday, forcing staff evacuations. The envelopes were found as workers processed ballots from this week's election, in King, Pierce, Skagit and Spokane Counties.
Officials say a white powdery substance was found in a regular piece of mail at the King County elections headquarters in Renton, stalling ballot processing. Renton police said initial tests found traces of fentanyl. The department also said it is coordinating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Meanwhile, officials determined that the substance found at the Pierce County Elections Office in Tacoma was baking powder.
In a statement, Secretary of State Steve Hobbs calls the incidents "acts of terrorism" aimed at threatening the election process.
“These incidents underscore the critical need for stronger protections for all election workers," Hobbs said in the statement. "Democracy rests upon free and fair elections."
Investigations of this week's envelopes are ongoing. The FBI confirmed to the Northwest News Network that it is responding to “multiple incidents involving suspicious letters.” In an emailed statement, the bureau did not offer details into the investigations, but recommended that people “exercise care in handling mail, especially from unrecognized senders.”
Suspicious substances also showed up at election offices in Washington earlier this year.
During the August primary election, offices in King and Okanogan Counties received mail with unknown substances. The King County envelope was found to have trace amounts of the drug fentanyl, while the substance included in the Okanogan County letter was found to be unharmful, according to the Secretary of State's office.