ECSU students 'make their voices matter'


Elizabeth City State University student Hyshem Staten (left) and Student Government Association President Chorn Poyner (right) get off a "party bus" outside the Pasquotank Board of Elections Office to join other ECSU students headed to vote, Wednesday.


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Roughly 150 Elizabeth City State University students rode a “party bus” featuring Halloween-themed decorations and energetic music to the polls Wednesday to cast their ballots in next month’s midterm election.

Shortly after 11 a.m., the first bus carrying a dozen ECSU students left the parking lot next to the Ridley Student Center for the short trip to the Pasquotank Board of Elections Office, where early voting is taking place through Saturday. The bus carried students to and from the elections office until mid-afternoon Wednesday.

The party bus event was part of a larger effort by the ECSU Student Government Association, the campus chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other student groups to encourage students to take part in the election.

“Our biggest goal is to let students know that their voice matters,” said Eyricka Johnson, a senior history major at ECSU and the SGA’s vice president for internal affairs.

Johnson said student organizers had no specific target for student voter turnout on Wednesday.

“We’ve just got to get them out there,” Johnson said. “We want to make sure that their voices are heard.”

The effort to encourage students to vote is non-partisan, Johnson said.

“We’re not going to tell you who to vote for,” she said.

Johnson said it is important for students to exercise their right to vote.

“Elizabeth City State students pour a lot of money into the community, so our voice should be heard and we have every right for our voices to be heard during election season,” she said.

Mekayla Stokeley, a sophomore majoring in biology and pre-med, said she voted last week but went along for the ride in support of her fellow students.

Stokeley said she was able to learn a lot about the candidates on the ballot from candidate forums and visits to the campus by candidates.

“The different people that are running have been coming to ECSU,” Stokeley said.

She said she attended a recent candidates forum held on campus.

There were two candidates Stokeley said she was particularly excited to vote for: Eddie Graham, the Democrat in the race for Pasquotank County sheriff; and D. Cole Phelps, the Democrat in the contest for state Senate in District 1.

Tynisha Mitchell, a senior business administration major, said she had an opportunity to meet a number of candidates, including Graham, a sergeant with the Elizabeth City Police Department.

“I think he was a good candidate,” she said.

Graham is facing off against Republican candidate Tommy Wooten to be Pasquotank’s next sheriff.

Mitchell said the SGA and other groups on campus had made an extra effort this year to make voting a fun experience for students.

“It has made everybody want to come out even more,” she said of the party bus and other activities.

Mitchell, who also voted in 2016, said she tries to learn as much as she can about candidates before she votes. She said she thinks about how her vote will affect people who remain in Elizabeth City after she graduates and leaves the community.

“I have to take this seriously because it’s not only affecting me, it’s affecting other people around me,” Mitchell said.

Chorn Poyner, president of the Student Government Association at ECSU, said turnout by students has been strong so far in this election.

“I’m just excited about students using their voice and being involved,” Poyner said. “I think students are pretty excited about the election. I’m looking forward to the turnout on the 6th.”

Student groups in fact will be sponsoring a “March to the Polls” event on election day next week. 

Poyner also believes past opposition to university students being allowed to vote in local elections in Elizabeth City has made students even more resolute in their desire to participate.

“For me as a student, my personal view is that it’s made us want even more to vote,” Poyner said. “We do want to have a voice and have a say in what’s going on around us.”