TN 14 (10-23)

SL 30001.323 Majority-Vote Referendums

All States are authorized under Section 218(d)(3) of the Social Security Act (Act) to conduct majority-vote referendums for coverage. The State holds a referendum among all eligible members of the retirement system designated by the State for purposes of that referendum (see SL 30001.321). If a majority of the eligible members of that retirement system votes in favor of coverage, the State may then submit a Modification to its Agreement to extend coverage to that group.


The State is authorized to extend coverage only where the vote tally represents a majority of all eligible members of the retirement system (see SL 30001.323C; SL 30001.323D). The State's authority is not based merely on a majority of votes actually cast.

A. Referendum conditions

While the referendum itself is a State matter, Federal law requires certain minimum conditions be met. The Governor or an official designated by the Governor must certify that the referendum met certain conditions listed below. The Governor's delegation of their certification responsibility may be general or specific, continuing or limited. The certification must specify that:

  • The vote was held by secret written or an electronic ballot (Federal law does not prescribe the ballot format or the voting mechanics);

  • The opportunity to vote was given and limited to the eligible employees;

  • The employees were given notice of the vote at least 90 days before the vote is to be held (Federal law does not prescribe the form of notice);

  • The vote was supervised by the Governor or by a named designee 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 referendums 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 State's Section 218 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. Referendum time limitations

Two time limitations apply to a referendum:

  1. 1. 

    The Agreement or Modification to extend coverage must be executed within two years of the date of the referendum and

  2. 2. 

    Another referendum cannot be held among the employees of the same retirement system group for at least one year after a previous referendum. This prohibition does not apply where a failure to satisfy one of the referendum conditions (see SL 30001.323A) precluded the first referendum from being legally sufficient to support a valid Modification.

The one-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 limitation prevents immediate or repetitive referendums.

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 Hospital Insurance (HI)-only coverage on January 3, 2004.

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SL 30001.323 - Majority-Vote Referendums - 10/10/2023
Batch run: 10/10/2023