Aside from West Salem, which is in Polk County, everybody else who lives in Salem is in Marion County. Unfortunately, when it comes to electing the county Board of Commissioners, too many Salem voters tend to forget the reality of this map.
Most recently, in November 2020 Republican Danielle Bethell handily beat Democrat Ashley Carson Cottingham 52-44.
Yet the voter registration breakdown for Marion County as of September 2020 showed an almost equal number of Republicans and Democrats.
Democrat: 63, 676
It's possible that the non-affiliated voters skew decidedly conservative, which would explain why Republicans keep being elected to the Board of Commissioners.
But another possibility is that many voters in Salem, a liberal-leaning city, don't have much of an interest in Board of Commissioners races. The Bethell-Cottingham race had 10,598 undervotes by people who cast ballots in the election but didn't vote in this race.
That was 6.8% of all votes. Since the margin of victory for Bethell was 8%, if Cottingham had picked up most of the undervote, the race would have been much closer. Of course, I don't know how many of the undervotes came from Salem.
Regardless of the reason for Marion County consistently electing Republicans to the Board of Commissioners, this has real consequences for Salem.
A recent example is the Marion County board expressing no interest in giving Salem funds that came to the county for programs that have mental health workers and medics respond to some crisis calls, rather than police.
Salem City Councilor Vanessa Nordyke and other progressives on the council strongly support this sort of program, as I wrote about in "Setback for Salem mental health crisis response team." I quoted a Salem Reporter story:
The city of Salem paused its plans to start a program where mental health workers respond to some crisis calls, rather than police.
The program was intended to run through United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley and received broad support from Salem residents who testified as the city was planning its budget for the coming year.
But city plans hinged on receiving state money that’s no longer directly available to them.
The House Behavioral Health Committee in January voted unanimously in favor of HB 2417, which would provide matching funds to cities for mobile response units through a competitive grant process.
Salem city councilor Vanessa Nordyke said a change in the bill during the legislative process required counties - no longer cities - to request a piece of the $10 million the state allocated for crisis stabilization services, and cities could in turn ask for money from their respective counties.
“As I understand it, there is no such interest from the Marion County commissioners,” Nordyke said.