Suspicious letters were sent to local elections officials in at least four states, according to The New York Times. Two locations in Washington State had letters that were said to include white powders containing the toxic drug fentanyl. Georgia authorities said that a letter bound for the election office in Fulton County had been flagged as potentially including fentanyl but had not yet been delivered. And California authorities said that they were uncertain what was in letters sent to election offices in Sacramento and Los Angeles. If ingested in small doses fentanyl can be fatal, but in general, experts say, skin contact such as what might occur when opening a letter poses little risk. The letters come as election offices nationwide are seeing a growing array of threats and aggressive behavior in recent years. “We’re seeing a high threat environment toward election workers,” said Jena Griswold, the Colorado secretary of state.
The F.B.I. and the U.S. Postal Service are investigating the letters, most of which arrived in Wednesday’s mail. Officials in the affected states called the mailings threats to the democratic process. The Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, called on political candidates to denounce them. “This is domestic terrorism and needs to be condemned by anyone who holds elected office and wants to hold elected office,” he said. “If they don’t condemn this, then they’re not worthy of the office they’re running for.” Election offices across the country have tightened security and implemented screening for visitors in recent years. The tide of threatening behavior toward U.S. election workers has played a factor in the growing number of people leaving the profession and the difficulty in recruiting replacements. “We do see trends in retirements, but this is on a much grander scale than we’ve ever seen before,” said Tammy Patrick, the chief executive officer for programs at the National Association of Election Officials.