Election Officials Increase Naloxone Supplies in Response to Fentanyl-Laced Letters Disrupting Vote Counting

by Ethan Kim
Election Security

This month, alarming letters sent to voting centers and government buildings in six states have stirred anxiety and concern. These letters contained traces of fentanyl or white powder, accompanied by veiled threats and ambiguous political symbols. Drawing parallels to the anthrax attacks of 2001, these mailings have prompted election officials, who were already grappling with persistent harassment and threats, to collaborate with local police, fire departments, and health agencies to secure an adequate supply of the opioid overdose reversal medication known as naloxone.

While the risk of accidental exposure to synthetic opioids like fentanyl is relatively low, the presence of naloxone provides a measure of reassurance, especially considering the ongoing addiction crisis in the United States, claiming more than 100,000 lives annually. Election managers emphasize the importance of safety for their ballot workers, who often find themselves in the line of fire while processing thousands or even millions of ballots during elections.

Eldon Miller, who oversees the ballot-opening staff at King County Elections in Seattle, shared his perspective on the matter. He stated, “My team is usually in the direct fire just because we’re opening up thousands or millions of ballots depending on the election. I always say to my team, your safety is my utmost importance.”

These suspicious letters were dispatched this month to voting centers and government buildings in six states: Georgia, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, and Kansas. While some were intercepted before reaching their destinations, others were successfully delivered, leading to evacuations and brief delays in vote counting. The FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service are actively investigating the incidents.

Notably, some of these letters featured symbols such as an antifascist emblem, a progress pride flag, and a pentagram. While these symbols have associations with leftist politics, they have also been appropriated by conservative figures to stereotype the left. The political leanings of the sender remain unclear.

Fentanyl, a potent opioid that can be up to 50 times more powerful than heroin when taken in the same quantity, is a driving force behind the current overdose crisis. It is frequently pressed into pills or mixed with other drugs. It is important to note that brief contact with fentanyl does not pose an overdose risk. Unlike powdered anthrax, which can become airborne and cause lethal infections when inhaled, the risk of fatal overdose from accidental fentanyl exposure is minimal.

Election workers across the nation have faced an onslaught of threats, harassment, and intimidation since the aftermath of the 2020 election, marked by false claims of election fraud propagated by former President Donald Trump and his supporters.

Ann Dover, the elections director in Cherokee County, Georgia, reached out to fire officials to secure Narcan, the nasal spray form of naloxone. Naloxone is readily available over the counter, suitable for individuals of all ages, and does not harm those without opioids in their system. Additionally, her office has implemented new precautions for handling mail, designating a specific person to open it while wearing gloves and a mask.

In response to receiving a suspicious letter, Lane County, Oregon, will provide naloxone kits and training to its election staff, as will Lincoln County, Nevada, although the latter did not receive any such letters.

The office of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced its intention to supply naloxone to all 159 counties in the state following the interception of a letter containing opioids on its way to elections officials in Atlanta’s Fulton County. Raffensperger, while condemning the letters, revealed that one of his sons tragically died from a fentanyl overdose approximately five years ago, underscoring the deadly nature of the substance.

Some of the letters sent to King and Pierce counties in Washington state bore striking similarities to the one received by King County during the August primary election. This prompted King County Elections to procure naloxone, even though it was not needed at the time or when the Renton office received a second fentanyl-laced letter this month. Halei Watkins, spokeswoman for King County Elections, explained, “We felt like it was just a good idea to have on hand for all kinds of scenarios these days. We have it in a few spots in the building and include it with the first aid and emergency kits that go to our off-site vote centers.”

Maya Doe-Simkins, co-director of Remedy Alliance/For The People, an organization dedicated to providing low-cost or free naloxone to community-based harm reduction programs, believes that governments should focus on providing naloxone to individuals who are likely to encounter overdose situations. While naloxone is readily available online and in some pharmacies, the distribution could be more targeted to those who need it most.

Chris Anderson, the elections supervisor in Seminole County, Florida, expressed his office’s proactive approach to obtaining Narcan from the fire department, even though they had not received any envelopes containing fentanyl. Anderson emphasized the importance of being prepared for emergencies and the potential to save lives with naloxone. He remarked, “I’d rather have and not need than need and not have.”

In Tacoma, Washington, Pierce County Auditor Linda Farmer revealed that her office acquired naloxone following the experience of neighboring King County in August. They also took the opportunity to remind their staff of its availability, highlighting the importance of readiness in these uncertain times.

This development underscores the challenges faced by election officials and the need for precautionary measures in a climate marked by threats and uncertainty.

Note: This article is based on the provided text and does not reflect the opinions or views of the author.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Election Security

Q: What prompted election officials to increase naloxone supplies?

A: Election officials decided to increase naloxone supplies in response to suspicious letters containing fentanyl or white powder, along with threats, which were sent to voting centers and government buildings in six states. These incidents raised concerns for the safety of election workers and led to a proactive approach to address potential risks.

Q: Were these suspicious letters a recent occurrence?

A: Yes, these suspicious letters were sent this month to various locations in six states, namely Georgia, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, and Kansas. While some were intercepted, others were successfully delivered, causing evacuations and temporary delays in vote counting.

Q: What is the purpose of having naloxone on hand during elections?

A: Having naloxone on hand serves as a precautionary measure to address the ongoing addiction crisis in the United States, particularly the opioid overdose epidemic. While the risk of accidental fentanyl exposure is low, naloxone can reverse opioid overdoses and provide reassurance for election workers who may encounter such substances.

Q: What is the significance of the political symbols on these letters?

A: Some of the suspicious letters featured political symbols such as an antifascist emblem, a progress pride flag, and a pentagram. These symbols, while sometimes associated with leftist politics, have also been used by conservative figures. The political leanings of the sender remain unclear, adding to the mystery surrounding these incidents.

Q: How have election workers been affected by threats and harassment?

A: Since the aftermath of the 2020 election, election workers across the country have faced a wave of threats, harassment, and intimidation. These issues have not only included physical harm but also emotional and psychological abuse, prompting some individuals to leave the field.

Q: What measures are election offices taking to ensure safety when handling mail?

A: Election offices are implementing safety measures when handling mail, such as designating specific individuals to open mail while wearing gloves and masks. These precautions aim to reduce the risk of exposure to potentially harmful substances.

Q: Is naloxone readily available for election officials?

A: Yes, naloxone is readily available over the counter and can be obtained by individuals of all ages. Election offices have taken the initiative to secure naloxone supplies to ensure they are prepared for emergencies.

Q: How has the distribution of naloxone been perceived in light of these incidents?

A: Some believe that the distribution of naloxone should be more targeted towards individuals likely to encounter overdose situations. While naloxone is widely available online and in pharmacies, there is a call for a more strategic distribution approach to address the overdose crisis effectively.

Q: Are there any connections between these incidents and the political landscape?

A: The political motivations behind these incidents remain unclear, as the suspicious letters contained ambiguous political symbols. While some symbols are associated with leftist politics, they have also been used by conservative figures. The sender’s true political leanings have not been definitively established.

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GrammarNazi123 November 18, 2023 - 9:49 am

Too many errors in this text. It’s important to maintain proper grammar and punctuation for clarity.

ElectionWatcher22 November 18, 2023 - 4:49 pm

these threats, no good! election workers need protection. naloxone smart idea.

InfoGeek01 November 18, 2023 - 7:02 pm

who sends these letters? weird symbols, unclear politics. spooky stuff.

ConcernedCitizen45 November 18, 2023 - 11:17 pm

really sad about threats to election workers. they do important job. naloxone should help keep them safe.

JohnDoe90 November 18, 2023 - 11:52 pm

interesting, story abt security in elections. fentanyl is bad. hope pple stay safe!


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