BUFFALO, N.Y. – A suspicious substance found inside an envelope at the Erie County Board of Elections has been determined to be non-hazardous, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Monday on Twitter.
Poloncarz said staff is being allowed back in the building.
Buffalo police, Buffalo firefighters, and the hazardous materials unit and Erie County Sheriff's deputies were on the scene after a suspicious white substance was found. One person was being monitored for exposure.
At this time, it is not known what the substance was.
"We do take it very seriously," said Ralph Mohr, Erie County Board of Elections Republican commissioner. "This is the first time in my 27 years as a commissionerthat we've had an incident like this occur."
An employee on the third floor where mail-in ballots are handled opened an envelope with the suspicious white powder inside.
The hazardous materials team tested the substance and found it was not dangerous.
Board of Elections commissioners say the employee who touched it checked out OK.
"The substance was deemed non-hazardous," said Jeremy Zellner, Erie County Board of Elections Democratic commissioner. "He's upstairs and he's fine which was obviously our first concern, so we're happy about that."
The Board of Elections is handling tens of thousands of mail-in and absentee ballots for November's general election.
This prompts the question: is there a need for greater security measures?
"We do our best to make sure our employees are safe, especially during the pandemic and especially with everything going on," Zellner said. "We'll probably look at a little more stringent requirements back there, but again we're processing tens of thousands of pieces of mail that are coming back and that's hard enough to do on a regular day."
Reynold Jennetti came from Lackawanna to turn in his absentee ballot application. He waited outside with the evacuated employees.
"Very important, very important," Jennetti said. "Last year we put the application in and never got the ballot in time, so I want to make sure I get to vote this year.”
Authorities say all of the mail-in ballots and applications received so far will remain in the Board of Elections building, and it's safe for the public to go inside. W. Eagle St between Delaware and South Elmwood avenues reopened for traffic after emergency crews left the scene.