Keep the Historians Out of Your Documentation


Here's a case where letting those pesky historians look at things isn't smart:
North Dakotans will vote on whether the state needs to "clarify" its status after a local history buff discovered a flaw in its constitution that has created a state of confusion — over whether North Dakota is even a state at all.
The 82-year-old Grand Forks resident, John Rolczynski, says he believes North Dakota is still technically a territory, 122 years after it officially joined the United States.
The misunderstanding stems from one word that was omitted in the state constitution that was written up in 1889, Rolczynski told msnbc.com.
Rolczynski, who was born in North Dakota and taught history there for years, was offered the chance to write a book on his state. It was during research for the book, in 1995, that Rolczynski found the error.
"When I found the flaw, I was having dinner with a friend. I called him over and said, 'Look at this! They forgot the word executive!'" Rolczynski told msnbc.com from his Grand Forks elder care home. "The next morning, we made an appointment and we drove 70 miles to Fargo to talk to the U.S. attorney there."
Article XI, Section 4 of the state constitution declares each official in the "legislative assembly and judicial department" must take an oath before starting office.
But the U.S. Constitution, Rolczynski said, mandates that senators, representatives, state legislators and "all executive and judicial officers" take an oath to uphold the Constitution. By not including that line, North Dakota defied the U.S. Constitution, according to Rolczynski.
Remember the case of the guy who took an ink pen and smudged the date on a pardon written by Abraham Lincoln? I think they should run a quick test for Wite-Out or something.

There are probably flaws like this embedded in the official documents of many state and local governments. Heck, there are probably flaws that could be found in the records of Congress and elsewhere. A meticulous attention to detail means that a legal document has the power of binding people to an agreement or a law or a declaration. Failing to pay attention to detail can lead to ruin.