Interns lobby for democracy

Published 1:24 am Sunday, June 27, 2010

Staff Writer

BWhile some of her peers are taking the summer off, Joyce Booth is spending the warmest months of the year educating the public about voting and its importance to democracy.
Booth, 21, hails from Beaufort County. She is a rising senior at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
The soon-to-be-graduate is spending a couple of months as an intern with Democracy North Carolina, a Durham-based organization that advocates for greater voter participation and a more open and inclusive election process.
Booth’s voter-education stint is a short one, but she plans to continue assisting Democracy North Carolina after her internship ends July 31.
“We don’t want to start our efforts here and then just up and leave,” she said.
Booth is the daughter of Bill Booth, head of the Beaufort County branch of the NAACP, and Marian Booth.
The younger Booth is a political-science major, so she knows a thing or two about the machinery of politics and government.
She wants to convey that knowledge to the people targeted by Democracy North Carolina’s outreach programs.
“I need to become an educator so I can share what I learned with other youth in small towns like Washington,” she said.
According to Shaunee Morgan, a field organizer with Democracy North Carolina, Booth is one of 10 paid interns engaged by the group for projects in the state during two of the summer months.
Booth and her intern colleague, East Carolina University senior Ana Eusse, are based in Greenville, but their region of responsibility — Morgan’s usual territory — is all of eastern North Carolina.
“I’ve learned just how community organizing works,” Eusse said.
Morgan said Booth has been helpful in cultivating Beaufort County contacts.
“It doesn’t feel like I’m starting from scratch,” Morgan commented.
On Tuesday, the interns and Morgan traveled to Raleigh to lobby members of the General Assembly as they considered an ethics-reform bill.
The bill, approved Tuesday by the Senate Judiciary I Committee, appeared headed for a vote by the full Senate.
In part, the measure calls for expansion of voluntary public financing to include the Council of State positions of state treasurer, commissioner of insurance, commissioner of agriculture, commissioner of labor, secretary of state and attorney general.
Morgan has indicated that widening public-financing options for state and local elections is one of Democracy North Carolina’s goals.
Booth said she and her companions lobbied a number of lawmakers in their attempts to gain support for the bill and similar concepts.
Among those lawmakers were Rep. Arthur Williams, D-Beaufort; Rep. Marian McLawhorn, D-Pitt; and Sen. A.B. Swindell, D-Nash, said Booth.
“It was packed,” she said of the Legislature, adding that the interns had to waylay legislators as they moved from one committee meeting to the next.
In a brief interview Wednesday, Williams said he favored the ethics-reform bill.
“I’m going to support the bill,” he told the Daily News. “I think it’s a step in the right direction.”
Broadening public financing of campaigns is listed as one of Democracy North Carolina’s No. 1 goals, the entity’s Web site reads.
To help connect with people in the community, Morgan will oversee a general-information meeting for the public at 5 p.m. July 16 at Brown Library in Washington.