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Two of three Jackson County ballot measures on track to fail

The Jackson County Court House in Medford on March 1, 2024.
Erik Neumann
The Jackson County Court House in Medford on March 1, 2024.

Voters favor a third measure to decrease county commissioners' salaries to $75,000, but its future is uncertain.

According to preliminary results from Tuesday's Primary Election, Jackson County residents voted down two ballot measures that would have made the county commissioner positions nonpartisan and increased the number of commissioners from three to five. So far, almost 57% of residents voted against the first measure, and nearly 55% voted against the second one.

The third ballot measure would decrease the commissioners' salaries to $75,000. Over 63% of residents voted in favor of that measure.

However, its text says decreasing the salary is dependent on the passage of the measure that would increase the number of commissioners, which appears to have failed.

Denise Krause, a Democrat and one of the chief filers of the three ballot measures, said that the intent of the salary decrease was to offset the cost of adding two more commissioners.

But tying the two measures together suggests that the decreased salary, although approved by voters, won't come to fruition.

Krause said she's not sure yet if they'll still try to appeal to get the commissioners' salaries lowered, given that appears to be the will of the voters.

"It's very clear that the voters really think the salaries are too high and want the salaries to come down. That was resoundingly sent as a very, very strong message," she said.

In April, the county’s Budget Committee approved a salary increase for the commissioners: over $150,000 for two of them and about $136,000 for the third.

These measures were spearheaded by Jackson County For All of Us, a nonpartisan group.

Krause said she was particularly surprised that the nonpartisan measure didn't pass.

"It's a measure that passes very easily in other counties, and it really doesn't have much opposition at all," she said. "They haven't faced such fierce opposition in the status quo, just really, really digging in and not wanting things to change."

One of the goals of these measures was to allow nonaffiliated voters to participate in the primary election. They’re the biggest voting group in Jackson County, but they currently can’t vote for major party candidates in the primary.

The measures received pushback from local Republicans, including current commissioners Rick Dyer and Colleen Roberts and a political action committee called Stop Bigger Government, which has raised more than $20,000 to oppose the measures.

"One of the real bright spots that has come out of [our campaign] is that we've brought a lot of transparency to the commission that hasn't really been there before and accountability to a new level, paying attention to what's going on, getting the public information," Krause said.

On Tuesday, Krause won her unopposed seat as a Democrat running for the third seat on the Board of Commissioners. She'll face Republican Randy Sparacino in the fall.

Jane Vaughan is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. Jane began her journalism career as a reporter for a community newspaper in Portland, Maine. She's been a producer at New Hampshire Public Radio and worked on WNYC's On The Media.