PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Suspicious envelopes making their way to elections offices in Oregon and Washington have raised alarms after it was discovered that some contained fentanyl.
The FBI confirmed multiple incidents involving suspicious letters sent to several ballot counting centers in the Pacific Northwest.
“What we may be seeing is sort of a warm up kind of a trial run to see how to disrupt elections in the future,” domestic terrorism expert Randy Blazak said.
The Multnomah County Elections Office was one of several offices on the receiving end. Similar envelopes were sent to the election office in Lane County and another to an election office in Washington State.
In a press release, FBI Portland wrote: “FBI Portland, along with our law enforcement partners, responded to multiple incidents involving suspicious letters sent to several ballot counting centers in Oregon. As this is an ongoing matter, we do not have any further comment but the public can be assured that law enforcement will continue to keep the public’s safety as its top priority. The FBI would also like to remind everyone to exercise care in handling mail, especially from unrecognized senders. If you see something suspicious, please contact law enforcement immediately.”
The Multnomah County Elections Director Tim Scott said the division’s staff were able to identify and isolate the envelope without opening it. Instead, they promptly turned it over to the FBI. Because the elections division followed strict security protocols, no election workers were harmed during the processing of the envelope.
Blazak told KOIN 6 this is only the beginning of what he sees as an organized effort.
“The soft targets whether the power grid or water supply or things related to the election all of a sudden become much more vulnerable target cities folks that want to create chaos and advance there are larger calls for violence,” he said.
Sen. Ron Wyden previously commented on the targeting of the Lane County Elections Office.
“Elections officials in Oregon and nationwide are a foundational building block in the strength of our country’s democracy, working hard to ensure all votes are counted fairly and accurately,” he said. “While we don’t yet know the extent or motive behind these attacks, it’s concerning in the extreme whenever anybody is targeted while providing a public service.”
Blazak said there is a need for heightened election security for the 2024 election year.
The Pierce County Elections Center in Tacoma received an envelope where fentanyl was detected inside on Wednesday. The next day, the King County Elections Office was targeted and the building evacuated. Traces of fentanyl were also found in a letter.
Halei Watkins, a spokesperson for King County Elections said her office was evacuated during the August primaries after a similar letter was sent with fentanyl inside.
“It allowed us to prepare and prepare heavily for this scenario. We were ready to go,” Watkins said. “We have hazmat buckets in place. We have trained staff to get everyone out and to safety.”
Stay with KOIN 6 as this story develops.