Update: State body to hold hearing on removing Butner from elections board
Published 12:00 am Friday, July 31, 2015
RALEIGH (AP) — A Republican elections official in North Carolina will face removal over racially tinged Facebook posts praising the Confederacy and suggesting black protestors aren’t “productive good citizens” with jobs, like whites.
North Carolina Elections Board Chairman Josh Howard said Friday he will hold a public hearing to consider the removal of Rowan County Elections Chairman Malcolm “Mac” Butner at the state board’s next meeting. A date is not yet scheduled.
The move comes a day after The Associated Press quoted a Republican Party spokeswoman saying the state GOP’s recent nomination of Butner was the result of a “clerical error” and that the elections official should resign over the posts. Butner told the AP he is a “victim” of political correctness and that he wouldn’t resign under any circumstances.
By Josh Bergeron
A local political figure with a controversial history has been elected chairman of the Rowan County Board of Elections, setting off a dispute with his own party’s state organization.
That history involves racially tinged social media posts Mac Butner wrote last year while serving on the Rowan County Housing Authority board.
N.C. Republican Party officials told the Associated Press on Thursday they were unaware of posts — which a spokeswoman called “offensive” — before the appointment and are urging Butner to step down.
Butner — a real estate broker who has long been active in the local Republican party — called any concerns about his serving on the elections board “poppycock.”
Butner, 62, drew sharp criticism last year for the racially charged Facebook comments, including some about participants in the Moral Monday movement. His social media statement said whites weren’t participating in the marches because “they were too busy working, being productive, good citizens.”
Butner was chairman of the Rowan County Housing Authority board at the time, and the comments led to calls for him to resign or for Rowan County commissioners to remove him.
County commissioners investigated Butner’s statements, but chose not to remove him from the board. When his term on the Housing Authority board ended, Butner did not to apply for another term.
Butner was the only new member on the Rowan County Board of Elections during the first meeting after recent appointments on Tuesday. He was nominated to be chairman by local attorney John Hudson, a Democrat. Landscape business co-owner Dwight Collins, a Republican, and Hudson voted in favor of Butner’s new position.
Collins was also voted secretary unanimously.
Butner and Collins were nominated for the Rowan County Board of Elections by local Republican Party Chairman Stephen Kidd. Hudson’s appointment was recommended by the local Democratic Party. All three appointments were ultimately approved by the N.C. Board of Elections.
Kidd has declined to comment on the appointment.
State Republican Party officials say they were unaware of the social media posts by Butner. North Carolina GOP Press Secretary Kara Carter on Thursday told the Associated Press the posts are “offensive” and urged state elections officials to take “appropriate action.”
“His nomination was submitted to the State Board of Elections as result of a clerical error,” Carter told the Associated Press on Thursday. “We have absolutely asked him to resign.”
Butner said the nomination was not a mistake and that he won’t resign.
As a member of the Board of Elections, Butner will have a say in certifying final vote counts, deciding early voting sites and approving provisional ballots. Rowan Board of Elections Director Nancy Evans said, “A board member, whether chairman or not, does not have the authority to make significant decisions.” Most actions require a majority vote of the board, Evans said. Others require a unanimous vote.
Butner said he would follow the “letter and spirit” of elections law in all of his actions on the board. He said any worry about future, biased actions on the board is unfounded.
“All that fear is for naught, and it’s poppycock,” Butner said. “People have no reason to be concerned.”
Butner cited the fact that he was nominated for the chairman position by Hudson, a former chairman of the Rowan County Democratic Party, as a reason not to be concerned about his future actions.
“I don’t know how much more united we can be than the first meeting on the first day,” he said.
Earlier this summer, Butner called Salisbury Post Editor Elizabeth Cook to complain that someone had posted a comment with racist overtimes on the newspaper’s website using his name.
Cook said she checked the comment and its accompanying Facebook profile. It appeared to be recently created and contained only a few posts — signs that it could be fake. She removed the comment from the newspaper’s website.
On July 20, Kidd — the Rowan Republican Party chairman — called Cook to confirm the post was fake. She said yes. Soon after, Butner was appointed to the elections board.
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 then controls the governor’s mansion — currently the Republicans.
North Carolina law does give members of the state elections board the authority to remove a county board member. Both the Republican chairman and a Democratic member of the state board declined to comment Thursday, saying they would likely be asked to vote on the issue.
The Associated Press contributed.
Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.