RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s elections board dumped a local official who made racially-tinged Facebook posts praising the Confederacy and suggesting that blacks who protested against Republican policies weren’t “productive good citizens” with jobs.
The State Board of Elections voted 3-2 to dismiss Rowan County Elections Chairman Malcolm “Mac” Butner, whose social media accounts also expressed support for individual candidates in violation of state law. Butner’s case marks the first time the state board has removed an elections official over social media postings.
Butner told the board in a letter he did nothing wrong but couldn’t respond fully due to medical problems. He didn’t attend the hearing or respond to messages seeking comment.
Butner had a long record of “intemperate” remarks that made him unsuited for a role that doesn’t allow political expressions such as campaign bumper stickers on cars, said board chairman Josh Howard, a Republican who sided with the board’s two Democrats to oust Butner.
“If you’re in charge of counting the votes everybody should be confident that you’re going to count everyone’s vote equal,” Howard said.
The two state board members opposed to removing Butner said they didn’t think his comments affected his ability to run fair and honest elections.
For more than a year, the state board has alerted county elections officials to a federal appeals court ruling that social media commentary can compromise efforts to project fairness in election decisions.
Butner made national news last year for Facebook postings extolling the Confederacy, denouncing gays and blasting demonstrators protesting the priorities of Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Pat McCrory.
On Facebook, Butner displayed a photo taken at one demonstration in Raleigh and noted the black participants. “I GUESS THE WHITE FOLK COULD NOT GET OFF BECAUSE THEY WERE TOO BUSY BEING PRODUCTIVE GOOD CITIZENS,” Butner wrote in 2013.
Butner was chairman of a local housing agency at the time and a public housing resident complained anonymously to a U.S. Housing and Urban Development official in Greensboro. Butner did not seek reappointment when his term ended in August 2014.
“I’m the victim,” he said then. “The problem is, in this society, you can’t express your First Amendment rights. You have to be politically correct.”
Under state law, the Republican and Democratic leaders of the state parties each nominate a list of names for appointment to the three-member elections boards in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. The state board then votes to appoint the parties’ nominees to the local boards, with the majority in every county going to whichever party controls the governor’s mansion — currently the Republicans.
Butner was nominated by the state’s Republican Party chairman and unanimously approved by the state elections board. A state GOP spokeswoman said in July his nomination was the result of a “clerical error” and urged him to resign.
State elections board members said Butner was initially listed as the GOP’s top choice among three proposed candidates for two county board seats, and later party efforts to rank him last weren’t made plain to the state panel before it voted.
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