The Upshot

The fine print: North Dakota may not be a state

Never doubt the determination of an 82-year-old man to change the world -- or at least the wording of his state's constitution.

Meet John Rolczynski: The Grand Forks, N.D., resident has been trying to tell his legislators that an error in the state's founding document means that technically, North Dakota is not a state.

Sounds like the ravings of a grumpy old man, but as it turns out, Rolczynski was right. News of uncertain statehood has put North Dakota in the spotlight and garnered big buzz.

Here's the story: Back in 1889, North Dakota was carved out of the Dakota Territory and admitted to the Union at the same time as South Dakota. Or so everyone thought.

But the state founders who drafted the constitution left out the key requirement that the governor and other top officials take an oath of office, putting the state constitution in conflict with the federal one. So Rolczynski has been arguing for the last 16 years that the omission made the state illegitimate.

Finally, somebody listened. State Senator Tim Mathern introduced a bill fixing the mistake that will be put to voters this spring. The happy historian, now confined to a nursing home with Parkinson's disease, told the local news team Valley News Live that he was "glad that I was able to see this thing corrected."

Not that he's finished with the founders: The eagle eye claims he's found another error in the constitution, this time having to do with the state's eastern border. Stay tuned.

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