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July 24, 2024

FBI investigating suspicious mail sent to elections offices in Oregon, other states

Marion County election workers sort mail after the May 2022 primary election. Suspicious mail was delivered to Lane County's election office on Wednesday. Oregon Capital Chronicle photo by Ron Cooper
November 9, 2023

Lane County closed its election office early Wednesday after receiving a suspicious letter

By Julia Shumway, Oregon Capital Chronicle

The FBI is investigating a piece of suspicious mail that caused the elections office in Oregon’s fourth-largest county to shut down the day after Tuesday’s local election.

The letter delivered to the Lane County elections office on Wednesday is among suspicious mail sent to local elections offices in at least five states, according to the Associated Press. Local offices in Washington, Nevada, California and Georgia also received letters, some laced with fentanyl.

Lane County public information officer Devon Ashbridge told the Capital Chronicle the elections office received a suspicious piece of mail early Wednesday afternoon, immediately reported it to law enforcement and closed for the rest of the day while investigators made sure the building was safe for employees to return. The office reopened Thursday morning.

About 39,000 Lane County residents were eligible to vote in special elections for local tax levies, a school district and a vacant Eugene City Council seat. 

Ashbridge said Lane County staff stayed late on Tuesday and processed every ballot that had been received by the 8 p.m. ballot drop box deadline. Closing the office meant the staff didn’t receive any ballots that were postmarked by Tuesday and arrived Wednesday, but the election staff picked those ballots up from the post office Thursday and processed them. 

“The clerk, Dena Dawson, is confident they’ll be caught up by the end of the day today,” Ashbridge said. “So (there’s) a small delay in results reporting but nothing significant, and nothing that affects any election-related deadline.” 

Counties must certify their election results to the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office by Dec. 14. Office spokeswoman Laura Kerns said Oregon’s elections offices have appropriate protocols in place and the incident won’t affect the completion of the election. 

Elections officials in Oregon and throughout the country have faced increasing threats and harassment since 2020, and one in three Oregon county clerks have left their jobs over the past few years. 

Julia Shumway has reported on government and politics in Iowa and Nebraska, spent time at the Bend Bulletin and most recently was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix, Arizona.

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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