Does the law have anything clear to say about changing the name of a state in the United States? What I know is:
Maybe a couple of decades ago there was discussion in North Dakota of changing the name of the state to Dakota, which before 1889 was the name of the territory that in that year was split into two states.
I think it was in 1780 that the name of the state called Massachusetts Bay was changed to Massachusetts by means of the adoption of a new constitution of the state. This was before the Constitution of the U.S. was written, and before the Articles of Confederation went into effect. But when the Constitution was drafted in 1787, it still calls that state "Massachusetts Bay".
The federal statute admitting the state of Vermont to the Union in 1791 says it is to be called the State of Vermont, which is exactly what the petition for admission called it.
Under the present constitution,
- Would a state statute suffice?
- Would a state constitutional amendment suffice?
- Would a federal statute suffice without a state statute or a state referendum?
- Would a federal constitutional amendment be needed?
- Might a federal statute be needed for some states (e.g. Vermont, because of what is noted above) but not for others, because of differences in the federal statutes that admitted the state, or because of the lack of any need for admission by Congress in the case of the original thirteen states?
- Are there any consequences of the fact that the Constitution of Massachusetts and the Constitution of the United States use two different names for that state?
(In Canada a constitutional amendment changed the name of a province in 2001, but since it affected only that one province, that was the only one that needed to ratify it. Of course, it doesn't work that way in the U.S.)
Update: Since the time when this was posted, the name of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations was changed to the abbreviated form Rhode Island (so that's no longer an abbreviated form) by a referendum changing the state's constitution.