Early Voting II: Lessons from her great-grandmother | Citizen

Early Voting II: Lessons from her great-grandmother



From left: Pota Vallas, her great-granddaughter Maya Eriksen, and her granddaughter Stephanie Eriksen Goslen
  • photo by Bob Geary
  • From left: Pota Vallas, her great-granddaughter Maya Eriksen, and her granddaughter Stephanie Eriksen Goslen

A post-script to my Early Voting post yesterday. When I arrived at the Talley Center (N.C. State), I was greeted by a pair of Democratic poll workers: Stephanie Eriksen Goslen, who's been in the Indy before, including as part of the Code Pink contingent honored in our 2005 Citizen Awards, and Stephanie's grandmother, Pota Vallas.

Vallas, who used to own the National Art Interiors furniture and design shop on the corner of Hillsborough Street and Glenwood Avenue, is 104.

That's right, she's been voting for presidents since Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected in 1932. She never misses an election, whether national, state or local, she said. That's a lesson she learned from her father, a naturalized citizen who was born in Greece. He opened a store on Fayetteville Street in Raleigh when he was 17, selling ice cream and candy that he made in the basement.

Her father was rabid about the importance of voting and a lifelong Democrat, she said.

She is, too. But what counts the most for her, she said, is the person, not the party. And in that vein, the news media has gotten slack in her later years about telling voters who the candidates are — their life stories, their character, and their accomplishments, if any.

Pota Vallas and great-granddaughter Maya Eriksen
  • Pota Vallas and great-granddaughter Maya Eriksen

The newspapers used to write about the candidates in detail, she said. They don't any more.

This year, though, she's in no doubt: She's for Obama. "He's shown himself to be a real leader," Vallas said. "I admire him to the extreme."

One reason she does is his life story. Abandoned by his father, raised by his mother and her parents, he sure didn't start life with a silver spoon in his mouth. "He came from nowhere," she said. "How he became president, I do not know!"


Grandmother and granddaughter had voted earlier. Now, as others came, the two were showing them how to fill out the ballot, which is not a simple proposition.

One of the voters they prepped: Maya Eriksen, who arrived just after I did. Maya, a College of Design student at State, is Stephanie's daughter and Pota Vallas's great-granddaughter. A fourth-generation Vallas.

Maya listened carefully to the briefing, as did I:

1) Be sure to vote for President and Vice President.

2) You can cast a straight-party vote if you want for all of the partisan state and congressional offices; but doing so does NOT mean you've voted for that party's presidential candidate.

3) Of course, you may want to split your ticket and vote for some Democrats, some Republicans, maybe a Libertarian or two.

4) The judicial races begin on the front (or they did on my ballot) and continue on the back, so be sure to turn the ballot over. Some of the judicial races are contested. Some aren't. I must say, it took me a minute to sort out which candidates were unopposed and which were running against each other.

5) The judicial races are officially non-partisan, which means (for most folks) you'll be looking at a list of names you don't recognize. That's one reason why you should clip or print out an Indy voting guide and stick it in your pocket.

6) In Wake County, there's a ballot question at the very end: $200 million for Wake Tech expansions? That'd be a yes vote IMHO.

Early-voting sites are listed on the State Board of Elections website, along with dates and hours they're open.

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