County elections offices receive suspicious envelopes

OLYMPIA — Envelopes received by elections offices in King, Pierce, Skagit, and Spokane counties were found Wednesday to contain unknown powdery substances. Each impacted county’s elections workers evacuated their offices, and elections leaders have taken precautions to keep employees and office visitors safe.

Local, state, and federal authorities are investigating the incidents, which occurred while workers were processing ballots from the Nov. 7 General Election. Because investigations are ongoing, the Office of the Secretary of State can provide no further information about the incidents.

Secretary of State Steve Hobbs said these incidents illustrate the need to take seriously the threats that elections workers face in administering Washington’s democratic process.

“The safety of staff and observers is paramount as elections workers across the state open envelopes and count each voter’s ballot,” Secretary Hobbs said. “These incidents underscore the critical need for stronger protections for all election workers. Democracy rests upon free and fair elections. These incidents are acts of terrorism to threaten our elections.”

During the state’s Aug. 1 primary, King County and Okanogan County election officials received suspicious substances in envelopes. The envelope and letter received by King County Elections were turned over to the United States Postal Inspection Service, which performed an analysis that detected trace amounts of fentanyl. The substance found in the Okanogan County envelope was determined to be unharmful.

Washington’s Office of the Secretary of State oversees a number of areas within state government, including managing state elections, registering corporations and charities, and governing the use of the state flag and state seal. The office also manages the State Archives and the State Library, documents extraordinary stories in Washington’s history through Legacy Washington, oversees the Combined Fund Drive for charitable giving by state employees, and administers the state’s Address Confidentiality Program to help protect survivors of crime.