Tim Futrelle, Presidential Elector  

11/20/08

Aside from being the newest – and youngest – member of the Watauga County Board of Commissioners, Timothy Lee Futrelle, 33, bears another distinction shared by only 14 other North Carolinians: he’s a member of the Electoral College that will actually elect Barack Obama in a solemn ceremony on December 15.

“It’s kind of surreal, the gravity of it all,” said Futrelle. “I always wanted to do something big, but I had no idea this would happen. To actually have my name written down in history is pretty amazing.”

The 15 North Carolina electors will gather in the Old Hall of the House of Representatives in the state legislature in Raleigh on the “first Monday after the second Wednesday in December,” as prescribed by law, to write down the names Barack Obama and Joe Biden and then sign the handwritten ballots with their own names.

It is one of the most esoteric and little-understood features of our constitutional democracy, that the people of North Carolina and the other states did not in fact elect Obama and Biden but rather electors equal to the combined number of representatives and senators in the U.S. Congress. It’s the electors who actually do the work of selecting the next President and Vice President of the United States.

“I’m very proud of North Carolina in this election,” said Futrelle, “to overcome all that history – the Civil War and Jim Crow – to vote for Barack Obama in order to make the country whole … it shows how time and good will can heal deep wounds.”

Futrelle is a native of Onslow County. “I’m the first of my family to go to college, the first to be elected to any public office, and one of the first to become a Democrat. They’re proud of me, but some of them worry a little about that ‘Democrat’ part.” Onslow County went heavily for McCain/Palin in the election.

After high school, Futrelle struggled for a few years with difficult family obligations, working a number of jobs to earn a living. He and his wife Jeanie both decided as adults that a college education was necessary, and while working full-time, both returned to school at Appalachian State University. Jeanie has completed her Bachelor of Arts degree. Tim is a senior political science major with a long-range goal of attending law school.

“I recently received an envelope with a return address of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners. The letter was addressed to ‘The Honorable Tim Futrelle.’ I thought, ‘Really? I’ve gone from a 33-year-old student to ‘The Honorable.’ How amazing is that?

“Before I filed to run for commissioner, Jeanie and I spent a couple of weeks thinking through what actually winning would do to our lives, the whole ‘fish-bowl’ aspect of it, not to mention the work-load, but we made the commitment, and I’m ready to get to work!”

The first hurdle for Futrelle’s election as a North Carolina presidential elector came at the Fifth Dist. Democratic Convention back in May in Statesville. In North Carolina the law specifies that electors are chosen by party conventions. The district forwarded Futrelle’s name to the State Convention, which duly elected him along with the other 14 electors in June.

North Carolina is one of the states that does not legally bind its electors to following the wishes of the citizens who voted in the election. Technically, Futrelle could vote for anyone he pleased when the Electoral College convenes.

“Obama and Biden are the names I’m going to write down,” Futrelle said. “I ran for elector committed to Obama, and nothing would move me to change now. These are exciting times in the nation, and I have great faith in Obama’s leadership.”