Suspicious letters potentially laced with fentanyl sent to election offices being investigated by federal law enforcement

Nov 9, 2023, 3:56 PM

The US Department of Justice in 2022. Federal law enforcement officials are investigating reports o...

The US Department of Justice in 2022. Federal law enforcement officials are investigating reports of suspicious letters sent to election offices, a Justice Department spokesperson said November 9. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images)

(Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images)

(CNN) — Federal law enforcement officials are investigating reports of suspicious letters sent to election offices, a Justice Department spokesperson said Thursday.

“We are aware of the reports and the FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service are investigating this matter,” the department spokesperson said in response to an inquiry from CNN. The official said the DOJ would not comment further.

Election officials in Georgia, Oregon and Washington state reported receiving suspicious mail.

In a statement Thursday, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Fulton County, Georgia – which includes large swaths of Atlanta – had been among the election offices in multiple states targeted with suspicious letters.

Officials in Georgia said the letter received by Fulton County was suspected to contain fentanyl.

“We’re working with our state and federal partners to determine if any additional Georgia officials are being targeted,” Raffensperger said. “Domestic terrorists will not trample on our right to free and fair elections.”

CNN previously reported that election offices across multiple counties in Washington state had received envelopes on Wednesday that contained powdery substances.

At a news conference Thursday, Raffensperger called on elected officials and political candidates to condemn the activity and invoked the death of his son to convey the seriousness of the matter.

“Some people like to call fentanyl a drug, but it’s actually poison,” he said. “It’ll kill you … very quickly and very easily. It’s very dangerous.”

“We lost our son five and half years ago due to fentanyl overdose. We know how deadly this stuff is,” Raffensperger said.

Fentanyl was found in an envelope received by election officials Wednesday in King County, Washington – home to Seattle – the county’s elections director Julie Wise told CNN.

Staffers opening the envelope Wednesday detected white powder and immediately isolated the letter, called law enforcement and evacuated the building, she said.

Wise said her staff did not read the contents of the letter, but she described the situation as eerily similar to one over the summer when another letter – this one saying that there should not be elections – was also later found to contain trace amounts of fentanyl. She said the US Postal Inspection Service investigated the earlier incident.

Wednesday’s letter arrived as officials were counting ballots following Tuesday’s local elections, and it prompted the evacuation of some 150 workers for about three hours, she said.

“It’s devastating” for the county’s election workers to be targeted in this fashion, Wise said. “They are human beings. They have families. They are here to do a job. They believe in democracy.”

But she said her team resumed work as soon as they could on Wednesday, undeterred by the incident.

“If anything, it’s fired us up even more,” Wise added. “It made us want to continue to do the important work of processing ballots. … We are not going to be broken down.”

In neighboring Oregon, an election office in Lane County – which is about 120 miles south of Portland – also received a suspicious piece of mail at their office on Wednesday, a county official told CNN.

Asked about the suspicious letters reported this week, a spokesperson for the US Postal Inspection Service said the agency “cannot comment on potential ongoing investigations.”

The reports come against a backdrop of election officials facing threats and harassment, first ignited by false claims of a stolen election in 2020.

Voting rights activists and some state election chiefs have warned that the overheated political climate around voting has contributed to a wave of resignations and retirements by election officials around the country.

The US Justice Department has brought criminal charges against at least 14 people after creating a task force in 2021 to address threats against election workers, according to a recent department summary.

At Thursday’s news conference in Georgia, Fulton County Commissioner Robb Pitts said the letters show that there are “some crazy people out there who will go to any extreme to disrupt” US elections.

“It’s my personal belief that this is just probably a forerunner into what we can be prepared for in 2024.”

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

Curator Lily Carhart shows a pipette they used to extract liquid from a few dozen 18th-century glas...

Associated Press

No lie: Perfectly preserved centuries-old cherries unearthed at George Washington’s Mount Vernon

George Washington never did cut down the cherry tree, despite the famous story to the contrary, but he did pack away quite a few bottles of the fruit at his Mount Vernon home.

16 hours ago

A reflective monolith found by Vegas Metro Search and Rescue near Gass Peak over the weekend....

Michael Houck

A reflective monolith appears in outskirts of Las Vegas

Three years since a mysterious monolith appeared in the Utah wilderness, a new one was found in the mountains near Las Vegas.

16 hours ago

A fan cools off in a mister before a baseball game between the Kansas City Royals and the New York ...

Mary Gilbert and Elizabeth Wolfe, CNN

Heat wave not seen in decades will send temperatures soaring for more than half the US population

A long-lasting and expansive heat wave fueled by an intense heat dome is underway for the Midwest and Northeast. Record-breaking high temperatures will last into next week, ushering in the start of summer with this year’s most significant heat event yet.

18 hours ago

Gordon Ramsay pictured at the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Rangers FC and Celtic FC at ...

Alli Rosenbloom, CNN

Gordon Ramsay says he’s ‘lucky’ to be alive after cycling accident

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay said that he's lucky to be alive after a recent cycling incident in Connecticut. In an Instagram post, he revealed a massive purple bruise on his torso.

21 hours ago

FILE - A sign outside the Internal Revenue Service building in Washington, on May 4, 2021. Most tax...

Josh Boak and Fatima Hussein

The IRS wants to end another major tax loophole for the wealthy and raise $50 billion in the process

The IRS plans to end another major tax loophole that could raise more than $50 billion in revenue over the next decade.

21 hours ago

Scientists have been trying to directly observe dark matter, the elusive and invisible substance th...

Jacopo Prisco, CNN

Scientists may have found an answer to the mystery of dark matter. It involves an unexpected byproduct

Scientists have made many guesses for what dark matter could be, ranging from unknown particles to extra dimensions. Here's what new studies show.

23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Suspicious letters potentially laced with fentanyl sent to election offices being investigated by federal law enforcement