City of Syracuse

Making Voting a Family Tradition

By Ally Heath, BDJ 464.02

Published on November 6, 2018

Voters in Syracuse are teaching their families about the importance of going to the polls. Video produced by (c) 2018 Ally Heath.

Show Video Transcript

HEATH: At Faith Heritage School in Syracuse, voters are lining up to fill out their ballots for a variety of reasons. For voters like Thomas Rouse, a window washer in downtown Syracuse, the issues at stake are broad.

ROUSE: We need change. It’s just not right. We just need change, period.

HEATH: This year, Onondaga County had the highest ever voter registration numbers for a non- presidential election.

HEATH: But for some voters here, it goes beyond just the issues on the ballot. Voting is a longstanding tradition, and one they hope to pass on.

HEATH: Ranette Releford is an administrator on the Citizen Review Board in Syracuse, and she’s voted every year to honor her family members that fought for the right to vote. She goes with her daughter, Emerald, on the way to school.

RELEFORD: It’s important that we come out and exercise our right to vote as early as possible because they worked for many years because they can.

HEATH: And Emerald is learning here, too.

RELEFORD: Absolutely. So that she understands how important it is and that even before work, and even before school, we go out there and we cast our vote.

HEATH: For Rouse, voting is also a big deal in the family. He made sure of it.

ROUSE: Everybody, I made sure all my kids, they’re all 20 and over, so I made sure all them was registered to vote… The older people, the elders, they fought for our rights, for our right to vote, so I just want to keep it going.

HEATH: Regardless of how old or young you are, it’s important to fill out a ballot for every election you can vote in, not just in big elections like this one. Reporting for Democracy in Action in Syracuse, I’m Ally Heath…

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Despite heavy rain, voters are coming out in droves this Election Day, and it was no different on Syracuse’s West Side. Faith Heritage School was nearly empty at 7:30 a.m. on election day last year. This morning, there were lines to both pick up a ballot and to cast it on the electronic machines.

Those lining up at the polls today all had an opinion to voice, whether it was on a specific issue, like job creation, or the state of the nation as a whole. Thomas Rouse, a window cleaner in downtown Syracuse, can’t remember the last election he missed. This time around, he was voting for more broad issues.

“We just need change,” Rouse said. “It’s not right. We just need change, period.”

So earlier this year, Rouse got his family and friends together and made sure they all registered to vote.

Ranette Releford is another Syracuse native who is encouraging her children to vote, but hers still have a few years before they can cast a ballot. Releford brings her daughter, Emerald Green, to the polls with her every year to emphasize the need to vote.

“She understands how important it is that even before work and even before school, we go out there and we cast our vote,” Releford said.

Releford’s grandparents are the reason she brings Green to the polls; once field workers in Florida, they fought for the right to vote decades ago.

Green, smiling with her mother’s “I Voted” sticker, said she loves going to the polls with mom. This year was her eighth visit to the polls. Releford’s grandparents used to tag along too, but Releford and Green moved so they no longer have the same polling place.

For both families, the message remains the same.

“The elders fought for our rights for our right to vote,” Rouse said. “So I just want to keep that going. I don’t want our rights to change.”

Voting is a family tradition, Releford said, that will not end anytime soon.