Electoral College Voting 'Unique Experience' for Hillsborough Woman
Ida Ochoteco joins presidential election process just five years after gaining citizenship.
Hillsborough resident Ida Ochoteco was thrilled to be one of 14 members of the NJ Electoral College who cast their votes on Dec. 17 for President Barack Obama’s re-election.
“Being selected as one of the 14 members of the New Jersey Electoral College was an honor and a privilege in itself, but actually being present and casting my vote for President Obama was like nothing I have ever experienced,” Ochoteco said. “I grew up in a Latin American country ruled by a military dictatorship and became a proud citizen of the United States just two years ago, so this was a totally unique experience for me.
"I cannot tell you how proud I am of the democratic form of government that we have here in the United States,” she added.
The ceremony was held in the NJ Senate Chamber, a very formal and impressive setting according to Ochoteco.
“We had to be there an hour early in order to cast our paper ballots before the actual ceremony,” she recalls. “Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno began the ceremony by calling for a moment of silence in memory of the school children who were killed in Newtown, Conn. Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski, the chairman of the NJ Democratic Party, then explained to us the role of the Electoral Congress and emphasized how unique our election process really is.”
Ochoteco was also very impressed with the diversity of the NJ Electoral Congress.
“There were a several young people of various races who were just beginning to become involved with politics,” she said. “There was one older lady, a lifelong Democrat, who was a first time member of the NJ Electoral Congress. There was also one gentleman who had been a member during a previous election but had been unable to vote because the general election was won by a Republican.”
A number of high school students served as pages, handing out and picking up the ballots. “It was great to see how excited these kids were as they were experiencing democracy in action,” Ochoteco recalls. “I remember thinking that one of them could be our future governor or other elected official.”
Ochoteco serves along with her husband, Al Ojeda, as co-chair of the Somerset County Democratic Committee’s Hispanic American Caucus and is also the secretary of the Hillsborough Democratic Committee. Mike Goldberg, Chairman of the Hillsborough Democratic Committee, accompanied Ochoteco and observed her swearing in.
“This experience was especially significant for me because my son, who was recently allowed to emigrate to the United States but will have to wait five years to become a citizen, is very interested in politics and was able to join us and witness the entire process,” said Ochoteco.
Democrats and Republicans each elect 14 members of the NJ Electoral College. The number is determined by the total of New Jersey’s 12 Congressional members and two Senators. The outcome of the general election in November determines which candidate receives all 14 Electoral votes. A total of 270 Electoral votes are needed to win the Presidential election.
Submitted by Robert Baker