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    North Dakota Pushing for Lottery

    Supporters say they have a lot of work, but expect to make today's deadline.

    BISMARCK, N.D. -- In an effort to drive new business and increase traffic into convenience stores, North Dakota retailers are pushing a lottery initiative, but sponsor Andrew Maragos said there is a mountain of a challenge ahead to get the necessary 25,688 signatures by the end of the day.

    "We still need a big push," Maragos said, adding he still doesn't know how many signatures have been gathered so far by sponsors and other volunteers who favor the proposed constitutional amendment, according to The Dickinson (N.D.) Press.

    The North Dakota constitution prohibits lotteries in the state. The initiative Maragos and about 30 other North Dakotans is sponsoring will remove the prohibition and direct the legislature to have the state join a multistate lottery such as Powerball or Lotto.

    Maragos, a Republican member of the North Dakota House of Representatives, sponsored similar constitutional amendments in the 1999 and 20001 Legislatures; both went down to overwhelming defeat. He is pushing the issue again this year in hopes of getting on the November ballot. But to do so, he must have the necessary signatures filed with the secretary of state by the end of business today. If he misses that deadline and gets the necessary number later, it would be voted on in 2004.

    Maragos said he sent 250 petitions to Grand Forks, Fargo and Bismarck, in hopes that pro-lottery citizens would pick them up and circulate them. Another 230 are in Minot. In Fargo, blank petitions can be picked up at many gas stations and convenience stores.

    Maragos said he may not be able to ensure from afar that people who pick up blank petitions follow the laws on collecting valid signatures, but he did include instructions. "I hope it's not a problem," he said.

    A petition circulator must be 18 years old and a North Dakota resident who is qualified to vote. The circulators must witness every signature on the petition and then swear to a notary that they did so. This precludes volunteers simply depositing petitions in public places and picking them up later. Those signing must provide a legible name, the date and a complete residential address.

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