Nov 9, 2023 - News

4 election offices evacuated in Washington state; fentanyl found at 2

Illustration of an exclamation point sign contrasted with abstract ballot elements

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Four county elections offices in Washington state, including in King County, were evacuated Wednesday after workers received envelopes containing "unknown powdery substances," according to the Secretary of State's office.

  • In each case, the substances were discovered as workers were busy counting ballots from Tuesday's election.

Zoom in: In King County, a staff member in the mailroom of the county elections office in Renton opened an envelope and discovered white powder, spokesperson Halei Watkins told Axios.

  • Preliminary testing showed a presence of fentanyl, Watkins said. But it wasn't immediately clear if the envelope carried a trace of the drug "or something more concentrated," she said.
  • Election workers left the building for about three hours while the incident was investigated, returning at about 1:45pm yesterday, Watkins said.
  • No workers reported becoming ill, she added.

Meanwhile, in Spokane, the white powdery substance discovered by election workers also tested positive for fentanyl, KXLY reported.

  • At the Pierce County elections office in Tacoma, it appears the substance was baking powder, according to police cited in a KING 5 report.
  • Workers at the elections office in Skagit County also were evacuated after finding an unknown powder, the Secretary of State's office said.

What they're saying: "These incidents are acts of terrorism to threaten our elections," Secretary of State Steve Hobbs said in a news release.

What we're watching: Whether authorities determine the incidents are connected and who might be behind them.


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