Dakota Datebook

Constitutional Correction

Friday, January 4, 2013

 

A legislative bill was introduced on this date in 2011 that would make North Dakota a state. Yes, that’s right: due to a small technicality in the original 1889 State Constitution, North Dakota needed a constitutional fix to secure its status as a U.S. state.

In February 1889, the U.S. Congress passed the Enabling Act, allowing for the formation and admittance of four new states. Dakota Territory would be divided to enter as North and South Dakota, while the Territories of Washington and Montana would also enter the union. To gain admittance, however, the prospective states were required to fulfill a strict list of requirements. Foremost among these was that each draft a state constitution that was “…not repugnant to the Constitution of the United States.” This meant that the state constitution could not disagree with the federal constitution in any way. North Dakota voters approved the 1889 draft later that year, and it was forwarded to Congress and approved that fall. On November 2nd, President Benjamin Harrison admitted North Dakota into the Union as a state…or so, he thought. Fast-forward 106 years to 1995, when Grand Forks resident John Rolczynski first discovered that the wording of Article XI, Section 4 of the State Constitution omitted swearing an oath of office for the executive branch of state government, including the office of Governor. This directly conflicted with Article VI, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution, which demands an oath from each branch of state government to support the federal Constitution.

Rolczynski, as well as several legal experts, believed that this threw North Dakota’s statehood into question. For sixteen years, the retired Rolczynski petitioned both state and federal officials to settle the matter. Finally, in January of 2011, State Senator Tim Mathern of Fargo introduced House Concurrent Resolution number 3009 to amend the original State Constitution. The bill was approved and the measure was forwarded to the general election ballot for the following year. Finally, on November 6, 2012, voters approved Constitutional Measure No. 2, re-wording the original constitution and securing North Dakota’s status as a U.S. state.

 

Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job

 

Sources:

Rosenfeld, Everett. “Because of Constitution Error, North Dakota is not a State (and Never has Been)”, Time Magazine Newsfeed. Thursday, July 14, 2011: accessed online 12/11/2012 (http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/07/14/because-of-constitution- error-north-dakota-is-not-a-state-and-never-has-been/).

Zap, Claudine. “The Fine Print: North Dakota May Not be a State”, The Upshot. Thursday, July 14, 2011: accessed online 12/11/2012 (http://news.yahoo.

com/blogs/upshot/fine-print-north-dakota-may-not-state-195631502.html).

http://www.legis.nd.gov/assembly/62-2011/documents/11-3051-02000.pdf (North Dakota House Concurrent Resolution No. 3009).

http://www.fourwinds10.net/siterun_data/government/corporate_u_s/news.php?q=12083 10066

http://www.valleynewslive.com/story/15042307/is-north-dakota-really-a-state

http://www.care2.com/news/member/827551733/2870488

 

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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