Election offices in King, Pierce, Skagit and Spokane counties were evacuated Wednesday, three of which received a white powdery substance in the mail.
The Pierce County Elections Center in Tacoma evacuated briefly after an envelope received through regular mail, not a ballot, was opened by an employee. It had a white, powdery substance inside, according to Pierce County Auditor Linda Farmer.
“We have a protocol in place and so there’s a little more adrenaline than I expected when I got out of bed this morning but the first responders were there right away and we enacted our protocols and so we felt pretty good,” said Farmer.
Although the building was evacuated for around three hours, the substance in Pierce County tested presumptively as baking soda.
That wasn’t the case for a similar substance mailed to King County Election headquarters in Renton, which tested positive for trace amounts of fentanyl.
Because of the delays brought on by the evacuation, King County was only able to release results for 20,000 additional ballots on Wednesday, down from the expected 50,000.
In addition to those incidents, the Spokane County Elections Office also evacuated for another white powdery substance, which also later tested positive for fentanyl.
Washington Secretary of State Steve Hobbs sent out a statement on Wednesday afternoon, labeling these incidents as “acts of terrorism to threaten our election.” He also noted that both King and Okanogan counties received “suspicious substances in envelopes” during the state’s Aug. 1 primary. In those cases, the substance was found to be harmless.
KXLY reported that Spokane County will not release election results as planned on Wednesday while the office is being decontaminated. The next ballot drop will be on Thursday.
We also confirmed that the Skagit County Elections office evacuated for a similar incident.
“Mt. Vernon Police Department and Mt. Vernon Fire have all been on the scene since then, we are currently waiting for hazmat to show and test the substance,” said Skagit Co. Communications Manager, Jenn Rogers.
No injuries were reported in any of the cases.
©2023 Cox Media Group