Federal authorities are investigating reports of suspicious letters sent to public officials, a Justice Department spokesperson said Thursday.
“We are aware of the reports and the FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service are investigating this matter,” a department spokesperson said in response to an inquiry from CNN .
Public authorities in the states of California, Georgia, Nevada, Oregon, Texas and Washington reported receiving suspicious mail. Most of the letters appear to target election offices.
Investigators are treating all letters as related to the case for now, given the timing, an official told CNN .
So far, more than 10 cases have been reported, the official said.
The FBI stated that it “responded to several incidents involving suspicious letters sent to vote counting centers in several states” but could not comment further on an ongoing matter.
“The public can be assured that law enforcement will continue to maintain public safety as its top priority,” the agency added.
In a statement Thursday, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Fulton County — which includes large areas of Atlanta — was among the election offices targeted by the suspicious letters.
Georgia officials said the letter Fulton County received was suspected of containing fentanyl.
“We are working with our state and federal partners to determine if any additional Georgia employees are being targeted,” Raffensperger said. “Domestic terrorists will not trample on our right to free and fair elections.”
A CNN previously reported that election offices in several Washington state counties received envelopes on Wednesday that contained powdery substances.
At a press conference on Thursday, Raffensperger called on elected officials and candidates to condemn the activity and cited his son’s death to convey the gravity of the matter.
“Some people like to call fentanyl a drug, but it is actually poison,” he said. “It will kill you… very quickly and easily. It’s very dangerous.”
“We lost our son five and a half years ago to a fentanyl overdose. We know how deadly this thing is,” Raffensperger continued.
Fentanyl was found in an envelope received by election officials on Wednesday in King County, Washington – where Seattle is located – county elections director Julie Wise told CNN .
Employees who opened the envelope detected the white powder and immediately isolated the letter, called authorities and evacuated the building.
Wise said her team did not read the contents of the letter, but she described the situation as eerily similar to a previous case, when another letter — which said there should be no elections — was also later found to contain traces of fentanyl.
She said the U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigated the incident.
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Yesterday’s letter arrived as authorities were counting votes following Tuesday’s local elections (7) and prompted the evacuation of around 150 workers for three hours.
“It’s devastating” for the county’s election workers to be targeted in this way, Wise expressed. “They are human beings. They have families. They are here to do a job. They believe in democracy.”
According to Wise, his team resumed work as soon as possible on Wednesday, undeterred by the incident.
“In fact, it spurred us on even more,” he added. “It made us want to keep doing the important work of processing ballots. … We will not be destroyed.”
In neighboring Oregon, an election office in Lane County — which is about 120 miles south of Portland — also received suspicious mail at its office on Wednesday, a county official told CNN .
The reports come against the backdrop of election officials facing threats and harassment, initially sparked by false claims of fraudulent 2020 elections.
Voting rights activists and some state election chiefs have warned that the overheated political climate surrounding voting has contributed to a wave of firings and retirements by election officials across the country.
The U.S. Department of Justice has filed criminal charges against at least 14 people after creating a task force in 2021 to address threats against election workers, according to a recent department summary.
At Thursday’s press conference in Georgia, Fulton County Commissioner Robb Pitts said the letters show there are “some crazy people out there who will go to any extreme to disrupt” the U.S. election.
“I personally believe this is probably a precursor to what we can be prepared for in 2024.”
See also: US elections: Trump has 49% of voting intentions; Biden, 45%
Source: CNN Brasil
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