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Voters drop off ballots on June 28, 2022, at Westminster Motor Vehicle in Adams County. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

A suspicious substance was found Wednesday in a 2022 ballot envelope submitted in Adams County, prompting an investigation by elections officials and law enforcement.

Initial testing indicated the substance is not toxic, said Adams County Clerk Josh Zygielbaum, but it will take as many as five days before officials know for sure if the substance is benign. 

A “fairly significant” amount of the substance was found coming from the envelope, Zygielbaum told reporters at a news conference Thursday. The substance was described to The Fort Lupton Press as a white powder.

Some cooking substances were found in the powder, according to Zygielbaum, along with an unknown chemical. 

The ballot has not been fully opened, he said. 

The county will process the ballot if it’s deemed safe. If the substance is toxic or otherwise unsafe, the county will mark the ballot damaged and may issue a replacement ballot to the voter, who was not identified. 

Coloradans maintain the right to vote unless incarcerated on a felony conviction.

The ballot was received at one of Adams County’s dropboxes. One of the county’s ballot security teams contacted law enforcement upon discovering the suspicious substance.

Zygielbaum, a Democrat, and Matt Crane, who leads the Colorado County Clerks Association, said no similar situations have happened in other Colorado counties. 

The discovery of the substance comes as elections officials across Colorado are on high alert given conspiracy-fueled threats. 

“The public needs to know that everyone is safe,” Zygielbaum said Thursday. “The election is secure and they can and should feel comfortable voting. Our security processes are firmly in place and worked well to detect and secure this ballot.”

He added: “We will not allow an incident like this to disrupt our election anyway.”

Delaney Nelson is The Colorado Sun's 2022 Medill School of Journalism Fellow.

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....