OLYMPIA, Wash., November 8, 2023—Four Washington elections offices were evacuated Wednesday afternoon in King Pierce, Skagit and Spokane counties after envelopes containing an unknown white powdery substance were found in the mail.
Local authorities are investigating the incident, which occurred while workers were processing ballots from the November 7 General Elections. The elections centers were evacuated for a total of three hours to ensure the safety of the workers.
Due to the nature of the investigation the Secretary of State’s Office was unable to provide any additional information at this time.
Secretary of State Steve Hobbs noted that incident showcases the importance of taking threats to elections centers, and their workers, seriously.
— Washington Office of the Secretary of State (@secstatewa) November 9, 2023
“The safety of staff and observers is paramount as elections workers across the state open envelopes and count each voter’s ballot,” Secretary of State Steve 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.”
Back in the August 1 primary elections a similar incident occurred when King County and Okanogan County election officials also received suspicious substances in envelopes. The substances were later tested by the United States Postal Inspection Service which found that the envelope mailed to the King County elections facility in Renton had trace amounts of fentanyl. The Okanogan County elections office tested as simply baking soda.
The Lynnwood Times reached out to Derek Nunally, Deputy Director of Internal Affairs at the Secretary of State’s Office, to ask what protocols and guidelines elections offices have concerning incidents like this, and if surveillance was being conducted on ballots during the three hours workers evacuated the building, but he could not be reached by the publication of this article.
This is a developing story, please check back soon for updates.