The road to the voting booth has been long for Juanita Torres, 24.
Torres, who was born in the United States but grew up in Ecuador, voted for the first time on Tuesday in the presidential election.
She did not vote sooner, Torres said, because she was unable to speak English when she first arrived.
After growing up in Ecuador, Torres, who works in Riverhead at the North Fork Spanish Apostolate and lives in Shirley, returned to America when she was pregnant with her first child, John, now six.
"I wanted my son to have the same opportunities as I do," Torres said. "Thank God we came. We're better off than we would have been, in Ecuador."
After voting, Torres said she felt proud -- and part of a democracy. "Even though everyone says one vote doesn't count, one by one, we will make a difference," she said.
And, despite being new to the country, and experiencing some of the biases with which immigrants are faced, Torres said in the voting booth, she felt a sense of equality. "Voting makes everybody equal," she said.
Torres, who had dual citizenship, said voting for the first time in the United States was exciting. "I feel like I am an adult now, and responsible."
Voting in the United States, she said, is more organized; she appreciated the postcard sent in advance of the election detailing voting location and specifics.
Although she came to the U.S. with her ex-husband, Torres is now a single mother to her two children; her younger son Daniel is four years old. She said she is thankful to have a stable job.
When it was time to vote, Torres voted for incumbent President Barack Obama. "I think he is trying," she said. "He's trying to get our country better than we were before. I like his plan. Even though everyone says times are difficult, the economy is stable -- not going down."
Looking toward the future said she wants her son to be able to head to the polls on Election Day. "If we don't vote, democracy will be over," she said.