VOTE 2022: What to know about the May 17 primary election in Salem

A ballot box in Marion County. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Salem voters will likely select their next mayor and a slate of new city councilors in the May 17 election.

The election is a primary for a number of federal, statewide and local partisan offices. That means Oregonians registered with a political party get to vote for the candidate they want to represent their party in the November general election.

But some nonpartisan races can be decided in the May election.

If you’re registered to vote, your ballot will be mailed out April 27 in Marion County and April 28 in Polk County. What’s on it will depend on where you live and which party, if any, you’re registered with.

Here’s what you should know about voting.

What Salem offices are up for election?

Voters living in the city of Salem will vote for the city’s next mayor. Two candidates, Chris Hoy and Chane Griggs, are running.

Voters living in city council wards 2 (south central Salem), 4 (south of Kuebler Boulevard), 6 (east Salem) and 8 (west Salem) will also select their next city councilor. If you’re not sure which ward you live in, you can look it up here.

Voters in wards 4, 6 and 8 will choose between two candidates. In ward 2, only one candidate, Linda Nishioka, has filed for the seat, though voters can write in a candidate’s name.

All of these offices are nonpartisan, meaning candidates are not affiliated with a political party. That also means voters don’t need to be registered with any political party to vote in these races.

If one candidate receives at least 50% +1 vote of all votes cast, only that candidate will be listed on the ballot in November, Marion County Clerk Bill Burgess said. Voters can still write in another candidate in November, though successful write-in campaigns are rare.

If no candidate receives 50% +1 vote in May, both council or mayoral candidates will be listed on the November ballot. In November, whichever candidate receives the most votes wins.

Salem city council chambers (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Which offices can I vote for?

That depends on where you live and which political party, if any, you’re registered with.

All voters get a say in nonpartisan races. For this election, local and statewide nonpartisan offices up for election with at least two candidates running include:

-Salem mayor (all Salem registered voters)

-Salem city councilors for wards 4, 6 and 8 (registered voters in each ward)

-Marion County district attorney (all Marion County voters)

-Polk County commissioner, position 2 (all Polk County voters)

-Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries commissioner (all Oregon voters)

A majority of Oregon voters are unaffiliated, meaning they aren’t registered with any political party.

If you’re registered with a political party, like the Democratic or Republican party, you’ll get to vote on that party’s nominees for partisan offices. Partisan races on the May 17 ballot include:


-U.S. senator

-U.S. representative (most Salem voters are in the new 6th Congressional district)

-State senators and representatives

-Marion County commissioner, positions 1 and 2

How do I check or change what party I’m registered with?

You can check and update your voter registration online using the Secretary of State’s MyVote website. Enter your name and birthdate to check your registration. Your voter registration card, which is usually mailed by the county clerk’s office, should also list your party registration.

A sample voter registration screenshot for an unaffiliated voter in Marion County.

You can update your registration online to change the political party you’re affiliated with or add a party if you’re unaffiliated. To update your registration, you’ll need your driver’s license or state ID number.

The deadline to change your party affiliation is April 26.

Voters can also fill out a voter registration card and drop it off or mail it to their county clerk’s office. Cards are available at clerk’s offices, DMV offices and many city halls, as well as on page 39 of the Marion County voter pamphlet mailed last week.

What’s new about voting this year?

The Oregon Legislature made one key change impacting voters. Previously, ballots had to be received by county clerks by 8 p.m. on the day of the election to be counted. Now, ballots mailed only have to be postmarked on election day and they will still be counted.

Ballots wait to be processed at the Marion County Elections Office for the 2020 May primary. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Are there any ballot measures to vote on?

Salem voters won’t see any bonds, levies or other ballot measures. Several smaller cities and school districts in the region, including Donald, Aurora and Sublimity, will have ballot measures which are listed in the county voter’s guide.

Which races will be decided in May?

City of Salem races, including mayor, aren’t technically decided until November because of the possibility of write-in candidates. But if one candidate gets 50% +1 of all votes cast in May, only that candidate is listed on the November ballot and is presumed the winner.

The Marion County district attorney race and Polk County commissioner will be settled in May if one of the two candidates gets at least 50% +1 of all votes cast. If neither candidate hits that threshold, both will advance to the November ballot.

The statewide labor commissioner race has seven people running. If one of them gets half of all votes cast plus one, that person is elected. Otherwise, the two candidates with the most votes will advance to November.

Partisan races won’t be decided until November, but the May election determines which candidate will represent their party on the November ballot.

Where can I learn more about who’s running in Salem?

Salem Reporter will be publishing Q&As with candidates in city races starting later this week and next before ballots are mailed out. We’ll also be looking at campaign contributions.

The Salem City Club conducted a mayoral debate April 1, which was recorded and is available online. On April 27, the club is hosting a forum for city council candidates from 7-8:30 p.m. The program is free for club members and $5 for non-members; register here.

The League of Woman Voters of Marion & Polk Counties has partnered with CC:Media to interview candidates for city and county offices. You can watch those Q&As on YouTube. CC:Media will also air candidate interviews and other election programming on channel 21 over the coming weeks. Check their website for a schedule of upcoming programs.

Watch the Salem Chamber of Commerce candidate forum, held on April 11, which includes questions and debate from all city council and mayoral candidates in contested races.

A list of Marion County ballot dropbox locations for the 2022 May primary.

Tips to be sure your vote counts, compiled by Salem Reporter

1. Fill out your ballot in black or blue ink so it can be easily read by machine. Election workers can and will count your ballot even if it’s filled out in orange crayon, but it’s a lot of extra work for them. Don’t be that person.

2. The secrecy sleeve that comes with your ballot is optional, and your vote will be counted whether you use it or not. But make you put your ballot in the return envelope with your name on it – not your spouse’s or roommate’s. Household mix-ups aren’t common, but issues like putting two ballots in the same envelope or accidentally signing your roommate’s envelope, not yours, can cause your ballot to be challenged or rejected. A “naked” ballot dropped in a dropbox with no envelope won’t be counted.

3. Sign your ballot return envelope on the back on the marked line. This line is the only signature that matters -– any writing on the ballot itself or the secrecy sleeve won’t be used to verify your identity. Return envelopes come pre-addressed with postage paid, so once signed, your ballot is ready to send back.

4. For the first time, Oregon ballots will count if they’re postmarked by election day, May 17, even if they arrive later. Still, if you’re a late voter, you may want to use a county dropbox to make sure your vote is counted. Be sure your ballot is dropped off by 8 p.m. on election night. Find a list of Marion County drop boxes here and Polk County here. (For you cross-bridge commuters, ballots are still counted if you drop them in another county’s box.)

5. Double-check your ballot was received and counted by checking MyVote. If your ballot shows up as “challenged” or an issue is listed, call the county clerk’s office to address the issue.

6. If you get a piece of mail from the county elections office after the election, don’t ignore it! They’re likely trying to notify you about a questionable signature. Send back the form, show up in-person or call if you’re not sure what you need to do. You have until June 7 to correct a signature issue. Once you do, your vote will be counted.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

JUST THE FACTS, FOR SALEM – We report on your community with care and depth, fairness and accuracy. Get local news that matters to you. Subscribe to Salem Reporter starting at $5 a month. Click I want to subscribe!