HELENA - A Ravalli County woman wants to amend the Montana Constitution to restore the state's boundaries that were deleted when the state charter was rewritten in 1972.
Cathy Hackett of Stevensville this week launched a proposed constitutional initiative campaign to put the boundaries from Montana's original 1889 constitution into the state's 1972 constitution. These boundaries spell out, in latitudes and longitudes, where Montana is situated.
"I really think that places our state sovereignty in jeopardy if we don't have official boundaries in our constitution," Hackett said Tuesday.
Hackett, 39, is a homemaker who calls herself "a bit of a rebel." She was a Republican precinct committeewoman who backed U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, in the state GOP's 2008 presidential caucuses.
"It struck me if you get charged with breaking a Montana law, you could very well use that as a defense and get off," said Hacker, adding that she is not a lawyer. "You need the boundaries for Montana law to have jurisdiction."
When she took a constitutional studies class, Hackett said she learned that the state's boundaries, which were in Article I, Section 1 of the 1889 constitution weren't in the 1972 charter. That's why she decided to submit a constitutional initiative.
"I have no idea what I'm doing, but it's just that no one else was doing anything," Hackett said.
She's said she's looking for help from fellow Paul presidential supporters to qualify the measure for the ballot.
Before the referendum on the 1972 constitution, voters were sent an official 24-page pamphlet from the Constitutional Convention that included the official text, an explanation and an outline of the differences between the two charters. The guide explained that the boundaries were left out of the 1972 document because "the boundaries of all states are determined by the U.S. Congress."
Hackett said she wasn't sure why the boundaries were dropped, but suspects it had to do with "regionalism," the concept of a group of states working together on issues.
"I have an idea that it had to do with regionalism," she said.
Montana hasn't lost any of its territory to Idaho, Wyoming and North and South Dakota by striking the boundaries in the 1972 constitution, she said.
"But for jurisdiction purposes and state sovereignty purposes, I believe we need them in," Hackett said.
Her proposal now undergoes a state legal review before she can begin gathering signatures.
Qualifying a constitutional initiative for the November 2010 ballot is no easy task. To do so requires the signatures of nearly 49,000 registered Montana voters, including 10 percent of the voters in 40 of the 100 state House districts. The signatures must be turned by June 18.
"There's people all over the state I believe can help me," Hackett said. "I was part of the Ron Paul thing when he was running for president. We still e-mail each other. I'm counting on those people. I'm confident that they'll agree with me."
Missoulian State Bureau reporter Charles S. Johnson can be reached at (406) 447-4066 or at email@example.com.