WASHINGTON (AP) — Authorities on Thursday were trying to determine who sent letters filled with fentanyl or other substances to local election offices, an attack that appears to have targeted multiple states in the latest instance of threats faced by election workers around the country.
Among the offices that may have been targeted was Fulton County in Georgia, which includes Atlanta and is the largest voting jurisdiction in one of the nation’s most important presidential swing states.
There is no immediate indication that any other election office in Georgia was a target for the letters, according to an advisory sent by the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency and obtained by The Associated Press. Fulton County officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The potential Georgia connection surfaced a day after authorities in Washington state said four county election offices had to be evacuated as election workers were processing ballots cast in Tuesday’s election, delaying vote-counting.
Election offices in Seattle’s King County and ones in Skagit, Spokane and Pierce counties received envelopes containing suspicious powders. Local law enforcement officials said the substances in Kings and Spokane counties field-tested positive for fentanyl. In at least one other case, the substance was baking soda.
Tacoma Police spokesperson William Muse said a message inside the envelope received by Pierce County election workers said “something to the effect of stopping the election.”
Muse said “there was no candidate that was identified. There was no religious affiliated group identified. There was no political issue identified. It was just that vague statement.”
Washington Secretary of State Steve Hobbs said the incidents in his state were “acts of terrorism to threaten our elections.”
A spokesperson for U.S. Department of Justice said the FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service are investigating, but had no further comment.
It was not immediately clear how authorities came to suspect that a letter might have been sent to the Fulton County election office or whether similar ones went to election offices in other states. In the advisory Thursday, Georgia officials warned counties to take precautions when handling mail.
“Dealing with suspicious mail threats targeting election offices is a critical concern for maintaining the personal safety of election personnel and the integrity and security of the electoral process,” the advisory said.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a statement to the AP that his office was working to determine whether any Georgia officials received such threats.
“Election officials should be free from fear and intimidation, which is why I’ve called on the General Assembly to increase penalties for election interference,” Raffensperger said. “We will work tirelessly to ensure that Georgia elections remain free, fair, and secure.”
Many election offices across the United States have taken steps to increase the security of their buildings and boost protections of workers amid an onslaught of harassment and threats following the 2020 election and the false claims that it was rigged.
Fentanyl, an opioid that can be 50 times as powerful as the same amount of heroin, is driving an overdose crisis deadlier than any the U.S. has ever seen as it is pressed into pills or mixed into other drugs. Researchers have found that the risk of fatal overdose from accidently briefly touching or inhaling the drug is low, however.
Associated Press writers Gene Johnson in Seattle and Lindsay Whitehurst in Washington contributed to this report.
Christina A. Cassidy, The Associated Press