PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Envelopes containing threats and white powder have been sent to postal and election workers in several counties in Oregon and Washington this week, leading to several evacuations.
The FBI and the United States Postal Inspection Service are investigating nearly a dozen suspicious letters sent to local election offices, of which four have tested positive for fentanyl, according to the Associated Press.
Christopher Stout, an associate professor of political science at Oregon State University, said the threats seem to be “a clear case of terrorism” that are no longer limited to the country’s swing states.
“Polarization and partisanship has gotten so bad in this country that people don’t trust even local elected officials to carry out their duties,” Stout said. “And it’s bad enough that it’s turned violent, right, that people are trying to harm others for a political ideology.”
The potentially deadly letters have been sent to offices in five states, with CBS reporting they may have been mailed from the Pacific Northwest. KOIN 6 has confirmed that at least one was postmarked in Portland.
The Pierce County Elections Office shared images of the threatening letters that make a demand to “end elections now.” The letters go on to warn that “ballot drops are susceptible to noxious chemicals” and are “unsafe to the public.”
Stout says he doesn’t believe the threats will stop election workers from doing their jobs, but if these acts continue, they could likely slow down election results and harm democracy. And if this is happening during an off-year election, he said voters should be wary of what’s to come.
“It’s certainly a worrying trend for the future, thinking about 2024,” he said. “We have really high stakes primary elections and, of course, the general presidential election in 2024. So if it’s happening, even in this period of time, it doesn’t bode well for the future.”