City News

How to make your vote on the Salem payroll tax count

With less than a week to go before an election that will decide the future of Salem’s budget, thousands of registered voters have yet to submit their ballots. 

During the special election on Nov. 7, Salem voters will decide whether to approve or reject a 0.814% tax on wages earned within city limits that would sustain and expand police, fire and homeless sheltering services.

With spending outpacing revenue, the city projects a budget deficit of $16 million in the next fiscal year if no changes are made. The city has to present a balanced budget by law. If the payroll tax fails, city leaders have proposed cuts to the library, parks, homeless shelters and police and fire positions for city councilors to consider.

Councilors narrowly approved the tax in July, with those in favor saying it was needed to address the city’s budget crisis and support emergency services.

Their decision was brought to a public vote after a referendum organized by Oregon Business and Industry, who is campaigning against the tax. The business group said the tax would be too much to ask from working families and would be difficult for small businesses to implement.

The tax comes out to an average of $42.19 a month or $506.24 per year for someone who makes $29.90 an hour, which is the average wage for Salem workers.

People who make minimum wage of $14.20 an hour will not be taxed. Those who make anything above minimum wage will be taxed. Someone who makes $15 an hour full-time will be taxed an estimated $21.16 a month, or $253.97 per year.

The above estimates come from the city’s payroll tax calculator, which is available online

Salem Reporter has compiled its previous coverage of the tax here. Read below for our answers to frequently asked questions:

Just over 15% of Salem’s 90,130 registered Marion County voters have submitted their ballots as of Oct. 31, according to data from the clerk’s office.

In Polk County, which includes west Salem, 22% of the 20,720 registered voters have submitted their ballots as of Nov. 1, according to data from the clerk’s office. The payroll tax is the only thing on the ballot in Polk County, so only voters within Salem city limits received a ballot.

Ballots are due by 8 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 7. Ballots must be postmarked or returned to a dropbox or county election’s office by the deadline.

Mailed ballots will be counted if they are postmarked by that time and arrive within one week, but election officials say turning in ballots early can help avoid headaches if any issues come up.

Ballots can be returned through the mail or at official drop sites, which can be located on the Secretary of State’s website.

Election officials ask that voters sign the back of their envelope with care, and attempt to match what is on file.

When signatures cannot be verified, officials will inform the voter and provide a registration card for them to update their ballots.

For ballots without signatures, officials will send a postcard to the voter with an affidavit they must sign within 21 days of Election Day, on Nov. 28.

Voters can also sign up for My Vote to receive notifications about their ballot’s status.

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

  1. Fill out your ballot in black or blue ink so it can easily be read by machine. Fill in the bubbles as instructed on the ballot, though election officials will attempt to honor your vote if your indicated vote is otherwise clear.
  1. Contact your county clerk’s office as soon as possible if you’ve lost your ballot or need a replacement.
  1. Place your ballot in the correct return envelope. Make sure the name on the ballot matches the name on the envelope. Don’t put two ballots in the same envelope.
  1. 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.
  1. Mail your ballot back no later than Election Day, Nov. 7. If dropping in a mailbox, make sure to double check that you haven’t missed the pick up time that day. If using a drop box, get it in by 8 p.m. on election night.
  1. Sign up for MyVote to verify the status of your ballot. If your ballot shows up as “challenged” or an issue is listed, call the county clerk’s office in your county to learn what the issue is and how to fix it.
  1. 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 signature issue. Send back the form, show up in-person or call if you’re not sure what you need to do.

Voters with questions or who don’t receive a ballot should contact their county elections office. Marion County can be reached at (503) 588-5041 and Polk County at (503) 623-9217.

There are accessible ballots and voting methods available to people with disabilities in Oregon.

Accommodations include large print ballots, electronic ballots and a signature stamp for those who have difficulty signing their envelope.

To learn more about services for people with disabilities, visit or call 866-673-8683 or TTY 1-800-735-2900.

Salem drop sites

Ballots are counted if they’re returned to any drop box in Oregon, even if it’s not in the county the ballot originates in.

Hayesville Roth’s Fresh Markets, 4746 Portland Rd N.E. Salem OR 97305, inside during business hours

Marion County Health, 3180 Center St N.E. Salem OR 97301, 24 hours

Marion County Public Works, 5155 Silverton Rd N.E. Salem OR 97305, inside during business hours

Marion Courthouse Square Building & County Clerk’s Office, 555 Court St NE, Ste 2130, Salem OR 97301. Outside drive thru on the north side of the courthouse only open Election Day and Monday prior from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m; inside elections office during business hours.

Sunnyslope Roth’s Fresh Markets, 4555 Liberty Rd S. Salem OR 97302, inside during business hours

Vista Roth’s Fresh Markets, 3045 Commercial St S.E. Salem OR 97302, inside during business hours

West Salem Roth’s Fresh Market, 1130 Wallace Rd N.W. Salem OR 97304, inside during business hours

Marion County Ballot Drop Sites

Oregon Drop Box Locator

Polk County Drop Site Locations

Marion County Elections Information

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.