SL 30001.323 Majority Vote Referendum Process (Section 218(d)(4))
All States are authorized under Section 218(d)(3) of the Act to conduct majority vote referenda for coverage. If a majority of the eligible members of the retirement system (not a majority of those voting, unless all those voting are actually all of the eligible members of the retirement system) vote in favor of coverage, the State may then submit a modification to its agreement to extend coverage to that group.
A. Referendum conditions
While the referendum itself is a State matter, Federal law requires certain minimum conditions be met. It requires the Governor or an official designated by him/her to certify these conditions have been met. The Governor's delegation of his/her certification responsibility may be general or specific, continuing or limited. The Governor (or designate) must certify the:
vote was held by secret written ballot; (Federal law does not prescribe the ballot format or the voting mechanics.);
opportunity to vote was given and limited to the eligible employees;
employees were given not less than 90 days notice of the vote (Federal law does not prescribe the form of notice.);
vote was supervised by the Governor or by a named designate of the Governor; and.
a majority of the eligible employees of the retirement system voted for coverage.
B. Certification form requirements
One certification is required for each referendum held in a retirement system, e.g., if one referendum was held by a retirement system covering a number of political subdivisions, only one certification should be submitted. If a State held separate referenda for the employees of any one or more political subdivisions, institutions of higher learning or hospitals as separate retirement systems, a certification is required for each referendum held. (A combined certification for each referendum may be shown on one form.) The certification should identify the precise retirement system covered by the certification.
C. Employees eligible to vote
To be eligible to vote in a referendum an employee must be:
a member of the retirement system at the time the referendum is held, and
in a position under the retirement system, i.e., be in an employment relationship (as distinguished from actually performing services) both at the time the notice of the referendum is given and at the time the referendum is held.
Generally, an employee is a member of a retirement system if the employee’s personal relationship to the system qualifies the employee for benefits under the system or for additional benefits if the employee is already qualified. An employee does not lose eligibility to vote when absent from work because of illness, summer vacation or leave of absence (e.g., teachers on summer vacation, members of the National Guard or reservists of the U.S. military and naval services who are called up for active duty) if the employment relationship continues.
D. Employees not eligible to vote
Employees who are not eligible to vote are those:
who are already covered under the agreement, e.g., a member of an absolute coverage group whose position is now being brought under a retirement system;
who are not members of the retirement system;
who are excluded from coverage by the required or optional exclusions;
who are members of the retirement system but are not State or local government employees, e.g., cooperative extension agents of the Department of Agriculture, are not eligible for coverage under an agreement; and
who are hired after the date the 90-day notice is given and before the date the referendum is held.
E. Majority of eligible employees
Social Security coverage may be extended to employees in positions covered by a retirement system only if a majority of the eligible employees vote in favor of such coverage. A majority of all of the eligible employees under the system, rather than a majority of the eligible employees voting, must favor coverage.
F. Referendum time limitations
There are two time limitations that apply to a referendum:
the agreement or modification to extend coverage must be executed within 2 years of the date of the referendum; and
another referendum cannot be held among the employees of the same retirement system group for at least 1 year after an unfavorable referendum. This prohibition does not apply where the first referendum was null and void.
The 1-year time limitation between referendums in section 218(d)(3) of the Act applies only to a referendum for the same type of coverage for the same retirement system group. This is based on the premise that the 1-year rule under that provision was designed to prevent immediate or repetitive referendums for the same type of voluntary coverage for the same retirement system group.
Example: A retirement system group held an unsuccessful referendum for Social Security coverage on September 1, 2003. That same retirement system can hold a referendum for Medicare HI-only coverage on January 3, 2004.