More than 100,000 Salem voters now have chance for say on proposed pay tax

Ballots containing Salem’s payroll tax measure went out to 112,489 registered voters in the city on Wednesday, Oct. 17.

Election Day for the mail vote is Nov. 7.

Voters in other Marion County areas will decide on tax measures for fire services for the Aurora Rural Fire, Idanha-Detroit Fire, Jefferson Rural Fire, Keizer Fire and Marion County Fire District 1.

Bond measures are before voters in the Silver Falls and St. Paul School Districts as is a tax levy in Donald.

But the big political gorilla this election is the Salem measure.

The Salem City Council decided in July to impose a tax on workers in the city to raise money to maintain and expand city services. A business-led campaign diverted the tax to the ballot through a referendum.

City officials say they need the money to avoid reducing public safety services and cutting other city services. Opponents say the city is asking for too much and creating an accounting nightmare for businesses that must process the tax.

READ IT: Marion County Voter Pamphlet

Ballots must be turned in at clerk’s offices in Dallas and Salem, ballot drop box locations, or by mail that is postmarked by Nov. 7. No stamp is required to mail a ballot.

Drop box locations in Salem include Roth’s Fresh Markets stores in west Salem, Sunnyslope, Vista and Hayesville, the Marion County Health Department, and Marion County Public Works.

The deadline to register to vote in this election was Tuesday, Oct. 17.

Every election, elections officials encounter problems with returned ballots.

According to Polk County Clerk Kim Williams, the three most common errors that affect whether a vote will be counted include:

•Forgetting to sign the ballot.

•Signing another individual’s ballot in the same household.

•Voter changed their mind on what they wanted to vote for.

Marion County Clerk Bill Burgess said that “about 2% of voters return ballots where the signature does not match the voter registration signature on file. We do not open the ballot return envelope unless we can verify the signature.”

The numbers:

Salem voters – Marion County: 91,701

Salem voters – Polk County: 20788

Total Salem voters: 112,489

Total Marion County voters

2023: 224,657

2021: 218,209

Total Polk County voters

2023: 62,786

2021: 58,366

In those cases, elections officials will notify voters by mail, asking them to deliver a signature form.

“If we receive the form within 21 days after election day and the signature matches, we will open the envelope and count the ballot,” Burgess said.

He said other issues ballot processors encounter include:

•Voters forgetting to sign the return envelope. In those instances, voters will be notified by mail how to correct the oversight.

•Voters drop a ballot in a drop box without the return envelope. These ballots are not counted unless a voter responds to a notification of the issue.

•Voters don’t get their ballots submitted in time. Burgess said voters who need a replacement ballot can get one by going to the clerk’s office before 8 p.m. Election Day.

Burgess encouraged voters to participate.

“Your voice matters. Please vote and show the world (and our fellow citizens) that democracy works in assuring freedom, opportunity, stewardship, and a better society for all,” he said.

Salem Reporter pay tax stories

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Les Zaitz is editor and CEO of Salem Reporter. He co-founded the news organization in 2018. He has been a journalist in Oregon for nearly 50 years in both daily and community newspapers and digital news services. He is nationally recognized for his commitment to local journalism. He also is editor and publisher of the Malheur Enterprise in Vale, Oregon.