North Dakota's Statehood

Came across this articleon the Time newsfeed:

Thoughts? Comments? Answers?


Ok, so they don’t take the oath. The state laws are unconstitutional. How does this make North Dakota not a state?

I dunno - that’s why I’m asking… :slight_smile:

This will boil down to a question of whether or not North Dakota quacks like a duck.

Assuming the article to have some level of accuracy and legitimacy, what should be done:
[li]Rectify the error and grandfather the mistake?[/li][li]North Dakota becomes its own sovereign nation?[/li][li]Canada absorbs it makes it a new province?[/li][/ul]

I’m no lawyer, but this doesn’t seem like a problem to me.

The US Constitution requires them to take an oath to support the US Constitution. It does not require the various state constitutions to also require an oath.

So, the only problem might be if those officials had actually not taken oaths (which would be in violation of the US Constitutional requirement). That seems fairly unlikely to me. What is ND’s swearing-in process?

ETA: I just read the article. This was “discovered” by some crank in 1995. Not a real issue.

I’ve always believed that North and South should be reunited into one Dakota. Or am I thinking of Korea?

IIRC, a similar question came up when it was asked what would happen if President Obama was found to have been inelligible to be President after his inaugeration. His Executive Orders, and the Bills he signed while acting as President would still be in legal force.

N. D. would correct whatever oversights they have in their law, but they don’t lose statehood, and the state laws (and the relationships with the other states of the Union) don’t get automatically nulled out.


It’s easy to confuse them. Let’s solve it by uniting ND and NK as “North Koda”, and SD and SK as “South Koda”.

I think it’s an opportunity for a fresh start. Let’s rotate the border ninety degrees and have an East Dakota and West Dakota.

Why not go the full 180? ND becomes South, and SD becomes North. Ya know, just to change it up.

On a more serious note, the United States Constitution requires that state officials take an oath of office. It doesn’t require that the state constitution mandate the oath of office. Governors and other officials in North Dakota have been taking an oath of office even without a constitutional requirement.

Oh sure, that way North Dakota gets off scott free and South Dakota ends up taking the fall.

Constitutional crisis averted.

Congress passed a law admitting North Dakota as a statein 1889, as long as those territories drafted and ratified new state constitutions. North Dakota fulfilled this condition and was a state. Any technical deficiency in a provision in the state constitution became irrelevant for statehood purposes once these were ratified and accepted by Congress. Article IV, section 3 of the federal Constitution makes Congress both the authority that decides what to do with territories (like the Dakota Territory) and the only authority on whether a state can be admitted, with few restrictions. Congress said North Dakota is a state, hence it is a state.

The alternative is not, IMO, that ND is still a federally-administered territory but that the executive actions of the ND government in the meantime might be questioned. Since they fulfilled the Federal constitutional requirement of oaths of office even in the absence of a similar state constitutional requirement, however, that point also appears moot.

You: corner.

I know what my location says. I’m still a Sandlapper in my heart.

A similar situation concerning Ohio was addressed by Cecil some time ago.

That would actually make a lot of sense – a better match to reality.

The economic activity of the Dakotas splits that way – the eastern half to 2/3rds of the Dakotas goes east to interact Minnesota or Iowa, while the western half goes to Montana or Wyoming. It’s even reflected in the geographic features of the area – the eastern part of the Dakotas is midwestern prairie, like Minnesota, Iowa, & Nebraska; while the western part is foothills of the Rockies.

The original territorial borders had an east-west split. The western border of Minnesota was at the river, so all of the eastern part of North Dakota and much of eastern South Dakota would have been part of Minnesota. The remainder would have been one ‘Dakota’, vaguely Idaho-shaped.

Of course, then we’d only have 49 states, instead of 50. All our flags would have to be changed, at a big expense. And wouldn’t that make all the oaths taken in front of these wrongly-counted-stars flags invalid? And all court actions where one of these flags was displayed? (Especially if they had gold fringe on them!) Let’s not get this started.

Here is the offending provision (Article XI, Section 4) from the North Dakota Constitution:

All kidding and hype aside, this is incredibly bad draftsmanship. How could one prescribe an oath for two branches and omit the third? One imagines the delegates spending too much time in the Rot Gut Saloon.

Furthermore, the final clause not merely fails to prescribe, but actively forbids any other oath for the executive branch. If the ND legislature has in fact prescribed an oath for its governor, it is in violation of its own Constitution.

The enabling act which allowed for the admission of the Dakotas provided:

The provision in the ND constitution, forbidding the legislature from prescribing an oath required by the United States Constitution, is arguably “repugnant” to the Constitution of the United States.

The enabling act further authorizes the President to issue a proclamation of statehood, if the voters approve the state constitution and “all the provisions of this act have been complied with”. President Benjamin Harrison issued such a proclamation on November 2, 1889. He was arguably wrong to do so, since the North Dakota convention had not complied with all of the requirements of the enabling act, but he was the President and it was his call.

Quite obviously, North Dakota has been a state ever since.

But equally obviously, this is a really dumb flaw in the state constitution, and I wish Mr. Rolczynski Godspeed in correcting it.