Aspen’s Camilla Auger not your average voter |

Aspen’s Camilla Auger not your average voter

Katie Redding
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet/The Aspen TimesCamilla Auger, chair of the Pitkin County Democratic Party, walks down Main Street in Aspen toward the polls during an early voting rally. Auger is a member of the Electoral College.

ASPEN ” Aspen resident Camilla Auger is not your average voter.

Auger, chairwoman of the Pitkin Coun­ty Democratic Party, also is a member of the Electoral College, which ultimately will decide the next president of the United States.

Auger was elected to the college at the Col­orado Democratic Con­vention, after much elec­tioneering of her own, she said. She noted that this year was unusu­al because Roaring Fork Valley Democrats gained representation both in the Elec­toral College and at the Democratic National Convention, where Brian Gonza­les and Blanca O’Leary were delegates.

“It was just an astonishing victory for Pitkin County and for our little region to have to have three people elected,” she said.

If presidential nominee Barack Obama wins Colorado’s nine electoral votes, Auger will travel to Denver on Dec. 15 to cast her vote for Obama. Members of the Electoral College gather in their home states to elect the president and vice-president on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December each election year.

Like 47 other states in the nation, Col­orado has a winner-take-all policy for its electoral votes ” so if Republican nomi­nee John McCain wins the popular vote in Colorado, nine Republican electors will attend the Electoral College meeting instead.

During most elections, the elec­toral votes merely have been a rub­ber stamp to a decision already made by the voters. But during three elec­tions, the Electoral College chose a different president than the voters: 1876, 1888 and 2000. In 1824, the Electoral College split its votes among four candidates and so the House of Representatives chose the candidate who had won second place in the popular vote.

“You would say that it’s a ceremo­nial role except for the fact that, as we know, we have presidents who have been elected by the Electoral College and not by the popular vote,” Auger said.

On two occasions in history, candi­dates have died before the meeting of the Electoral College, thus losing most of their electoral votes. Presi­dential candidate Horace Greeley expired after the 1872 election and vice-presidential candidate James Sherman died so soon before the 1912 election that his name could not be removed from the ballot. In nei­ther case had the deceased candi­date won the majority of the electoral votes, so the shifting Electoral Col­lege votes did not affect who took office.

But Auger is careful to note that should something, like a scandal, hap­pen to the president-elect between the Nov. 4 election and the meeting of the electoral college, the electors techni­cally have the right to elect someone else. Electors who change their vote are called “faithless electors,” explained Auger, since they are con­sidered unfaithful to their promise. Never in the history of the United States have enough faithless electors surprised the nation in December ” but in theory, it could happen.

Auger, who spoke by cell phone between election work this week, said she began her involvement with the Democratic Party by working on President Jack Kennedy’s campaign when she was in high school. She has worked on every Democratic presi­dential campaign since then, includ­ing co-chairing the Washington, D.C., campaign for Gary Hart.

After moving to Aspen, she became involved with the local branch of the Democratic Party, eventually becoming chairwoman of the organization. Auger said she has been pleasantly surprised by Aspen’s active political climate, and by the fact that it almost always is a cam­paign stop, even for candidates in national races.

“It’s as active as the upper west side of New York,” she said.

When not volunteering for political causes, Auger has worked as a pro­fessor of social sciences and later, as the vice president of what she claims is the nation’s only Jewish democrat­ic- liberal oil company ” Tosco Corp. “I think I was probably the only person in country to be executive vice president of an oil company and teaching Marxist theory at a universi­ty,” she said.

Ironically for someone who could have a pivotal role in electing Oba­ma, Auger initially was a supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. She has been a friend and supporter of the Clintons ever since Bill Clinton’s first run for gover­nor of Arkansas, she explained.

“I’m a loyal Yellow Dog, so of course I supported them,” she said.

But she noted that local Obama and Clinton supporters worked closely even during the primary sea­son, often holding joint events. So when Obama won the nomination, she held no hard feelings.

“It was no problem for me to shift because I had great respect for [Oba­ma] from the start,” she said. Her respect has only increased as she has watched how smoothly Obama has run his campaign, she added ” not­ing that Democratic candidates are often known for flaws in the organi­zation of their campaigns.

So despite the freedom legally afforded her to elect whomever she wants, she promises she’ll be voting for Barack Obama in December.

“You bet,” she said. “With pleasure and pride.”

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