Authorities examine letters containing fentanyl, different substances despatched to U.S. election workplaces

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Authorities had been searching Thursday for whoever despatched suspicious letters — together with some containing fentanyl — to elections workplaces in at the least 5 states this week, delaying the counting of ballots in some native races within the newest occasion of threats confronted by election employees across the nation.

The letters had been despatched to elections workplaces within the presidential battlegrounds of Georgia and Nevada, in addition to California, Oregon and Washington state, with some being intercepted earlier than they arrived. 4 of the letters contained fentanyl, the FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service reported in a press release to elections officers Thursday.

“Regulation enforcement is working diligently to intercept any extra letters earlier than they’re delivered,” the assertion mentioned.

The Pierce County auditor’s workplace in Tacoma, Wash., launched photographs of the letter it obtained, displaying it had been postmarked in Portland, Ore., and skim partly: “Finish elections now.”

In Seattle, King County Elections Director Julie Smart mentioned that letter seemed to be the identical one her workplace acquired — and that it was “very related” to at least one King County obtained throughout the August major, which additionally contained fentanyl.

Among the many workplaces that seemed to be focused was Fulton County in Georgia, which incorporates Atlanta and is the most important voting jurisdiction in one of many nation’s most necessary presidential swing states.

‘Home terrorism’

Authorities had been working to intercept the letter. Within the meantime, Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger mentioned officers had been sending the overdose-reversal drug naloxone to the workplace as a precaution.

“That is home terrorism, and it must be condemned by anybody that holds elected workplace and anybody that wishes to carry elected workplace wherever in America,” mentioned Raffensperger, a Republican.

In California, america Postal Service intercepted two suspicious envelopes headed to election services in Los Angeles and Sacramento.

Authorities in Lane County, Ore., which incorporates the College of Oregon, had been investigating a chunk of mail that arrived on the native election workplace on Wednesday.

Nobody who got here involved with it had skilled any detrimental well being results, mentioned Devon Ashbridge, spokesperson for the Lane County Elections Workplace in Eugene. The incident prompted officers to shut the workplace and delayed a day pickup of ballots.

Ashbridge declined to offer additional particulars. “Somebody tried to terrorize our elections employees, and that is not OK,” she mentioned.

Evacuations delay vote counting

On Wednesday, authorities in Washington state mentioned 4 county election workplaces needed to be evacuated as election employees had been processing ballots forged in Tuesday’s election, delaying vote-counting.

Election workplaces in King, Skagit, Spokane and Pierce counties obtained envelopes containing powders. Native regulation enforcement officers mentioned the substances in King and Spokane counties field-tested constructive for fentanyl. 

In at the least one different case, the substance was baking soda.

Pierce County Auditor Linda Farmer launched photographs of the envelope and letter her workplace obtained. The letter contained a warning concerning the vulnerability of “poll drops” and skim: “Finish elections now. Cease giving energy to the proper that they do not have. We’re in cost now and there’s no extra want for them.”

The letter featured an antifascist image, a progress satisfaction flag and a pentagram. Whereas the symbols have typically been related to leftist politics, additionally they have been utilized by conservative figures to label and stereotype the left, and the sender’s political leanings had been unclear.

Elections workplaces in two Washington counties additionally obtained suspicious envelopes whereas processing ballots throughout the August major, and one examined constructive for traces of fentanyl.

A person wearing a black shirt and a black face mask dumps a large plastic container of ballot envelopes on to a table.
Election employee Patrick Schmeichel prepares to course of ballots that arrived from a poll drop-box on Tuesday on the King County Elections headquarters in Renton, Wash. (Ken Lambert/The Seattle Instances/The Related Press)

These letters stay below investigation by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the FBI.

Washington Secretary of State Steve Hobbs referred to as the incidents in his state “acts of terrorism to threaten our elections.”

White Home spokesperson Olivia Dalton mentioned the Biden administration was conscious of the investigation: “We’re grateful for the election and ballot employees who served this week to make sure the safety of our democratic processes.”

Unintentional overdose threat low

Fentanyl, an opioid that may be 50 occasions as highly effective as the identical quantity of heroin, is driving an overdose disaster deadlier than any the U.S. has ever seen as it’s pressed into tablets or combined into different medicine.

Briefly touching fentanyl can’t trigger an overdose, and researchers have discovered that the danger of deadly overdose from unintended publicity is low.

Jeanmarie Perrone, director of the Heart for Habit Medication and Coverage on the College of Pennsylvania mentioned research simulating publicity from opening envelopes containing powders confirmed that little or no if any of the powder might change into aerosolized and trigger toxicity by inhalation.

She famous that manufacturing facility employees in manufacturing services typically put on some degree of protecting gear, however even incidental nasal publicity has not been discovered to trigger toxicity in these employees.

“We have now actually good proof that it would not be uncovered by the pores and skin, or by inhalation,” Perrone mentioned.

A man with grey hair and glasses wears a suit and tie.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger attends a gathering of the Nationwide Affiliation of Secretaries of State in February in Washington, D.C. On Thursday, Raffensperger referred to as the letters containing fentanyl that had been despatched to election workplaces in 5 states ‘home terrorism.’ (Patrick Semansky/The Related Press)

Officers threatened, harassed after 2020 election

It was not instantly clear how authorities got here to suspect {that a} letter may need been despatched to Georgia’s greatest election workplace.

Raffensperger mentioned the state alerted all 159 of its counties of the attainable menace Wednesday, however believes solely Fulton County is being focused. It is the newest disruption for the reason that 2020 election to the workplace that oversees voting in and round Atlanta.

Fulton County Fee chairman Robb Pitts, talking at a information convention Thursday with Raffensperger, mentioned the county’s election employees had been below menace for the reason that 2020 presidential election, when former-Republican president Donald Trump, his legal professional Rudolph Giuliani and others falsely alleged that election employees had been stuffing ballots to help Democrats.

Democrat Joe Biden narrowly received the state. A part of the Fulton County prosecution that indicted Trump, Giuliani and 17 others contains legal fees specializing in statements and acts made in opposition to election employees.

“There’s individuals on the market who wish to do hurt to our employees and wish to disrupt, interrupt, the stream of democracy and free, open and clear elections, and we’re ready for it,” mentioned Pitts, an elected Democrat.

He mentioned he thinks that Georgia’s most populous county would be the “focus” of election scrutiny in 2024.

“So this was a great trial run for us, I hate to say it.”

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