Unknown substance found in Adams County ballot

Police investigating white powder in ballot from Thornton drop box

Scott Taylor
staylor@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 11/3/22

An unknown substance found in a ballot dropped in a Thornton drop box Nov. 2 has triggered safety protocols at the Adams County Clerk's Office and an investigation by the Thornton Police, the County …

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Unknown substance found in Adams County ballot

Police investigating white powder in ballot from Thornton drop box

Posted

An unknown substance found in a ballot dropped in a Thornton drop box Nov. 2 has triggered safety protocols at the Adams County Clerk's Office and an investigation by the Thornton Police, the County sheriff and the FBI.

Adams County Public Information Officer William Porter said the suspicious ballot was collected from a Thornton drop box Nov. 2 and taken to the county building in Brighton for processing. An election staff member was preparing to open the ballot envelope when they noticed a white powder leaking from one of the holes in the envelope.

"We can't process that ballot until we confirm it is safe or not, but there was enough of the substance in the envelope that it is presumed to be intentional," Porter said. "We wanted to be transparent to let people know we have a ballot that is currently in a holding pattern until we discover what this substance is."

Porter said the substance appeared to be flour but was sent off to a lab to determine just what it is. Porter said the lab could take up to five days to complete an analysis of the powder to determine if it is benign or something dangerous.

Colorado voters have until 7 p.m. Nov. 8 to return their ballots to their county clerk for counting. Porter said the incident has not stopped work in Adams County, but it did slow things down on Nov. 2 while clerk crews cleaned and sanitized the Thornton ballot box, the bag that was carrying it to the Clerk's office, the vehicle that it was transported in, the tray the bag was emptied into and other associated equipment.

"We had to clean multiple surfaces and ballot boxes and trays and anything that envelope came into contact with," he said. "We have done a number of things to make sure that everyone, from the administrative side to the public, is safe. Right now, we don't have confirmation."

He said all 64 Colorado county clerks have been notified of the incident and there have been no other instances reported so far.

Things have returned to normal, he said.

"Ultimately, this is why we have security protocols," Porter said. "We don't want to allow incidents like this to disrupt our elections. This is the new world we live in with evolving threats. So the biggest thing is, we don't want there to be a panic. We want to people to have confidence in the election."

Colorado ballots are put into secure envelopes by voters before mailing them or putting them in the drop boxes. Those envelopes contain the voter's names, addresses and a box where they can sign their ballots. Porter said this envelope contains that voter information and said Thornton police and the FBI have spoken with the voter.

The clerks have not opened the ballot yet, he said. It is currently on hold. If the chemical test of the substance determines it is safe, the ballot envelope will be opened and the ballot processed. If tests show that it contains a dangerous substance, Porter said the ballot will marked spoiled and a new ballot will be issued to the voter.

"If it is found to be harmful, it will be in law enforcement's hands and the ballot will be marked as damaged," he said. "We will still make sure that voter is able to vote, regardless. Our job is to make sure every vote is counted and that will still be the case."

This story will be updated.

Adams County, Thornton Colorado, voting, ballot, white powder, treat

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