NC Board of Elections votes to remove Rowan County BOE Chairman over racist posts

ROWAN COUNTY (WTVD) -- The North Carolina Board of Elections has voted to remove the Republican elections official from Rowan County over over inflammatory remarks he made on social media.

The NCSBE unanimously appointed Malcolm "Mac" Butner to the board in July, but voted 3-2 to dismiss him, board members explaining they weren't aware of his history of making controversial comments on his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

One example includes a post targeting black protesters who rallied against state GOP lawmakers and policies, suggesting they weren't "productive good citizens" with jobs. Other posts praised the Confederacy, stating the U.S. was currently Confederate under illegal occupation.

Last year, local civil rights leaders called on Butner to resign from his chairmanship of a local housing agency after he made Facebook posts they considered racist.

Before taking a vote, NCSBE Chair Joshua Howard let it be known he would seek Butner's removal.

"These are remarks that I would not tolerate in my home," he told the board. "I won't abide them in my workplace and I'm sure as heck not gonna leave a person who says these things on a county board of elections."

Butner was not present for Thursday's hearing; he sent a brief letter to the board the day before explaining he couldn't attend because he was recovering from medical issues. He also insisted he had done nothing wrong.

Howard and other board members also criticized Butner's endorsements of sitting elected officials on that same Facebook page that was not deleted until about a month after Butner took office.

"That's wholly inappropriate and they were still up after he took office and you just can't do that," said Howard. "You don't put a bumper sticker on your car endorsing a candidate. You don't put a sign in your yard- not when you're the chairman of the county board of elections."

Board members discussed Butner's appointment as being accidental to begin with, saying a clerical error allowed him to be nominated for the role when he shouldn't have been.

While Howard sided with the two democrats on the board for Butner's ouster, the other two republicans voted against his removal.

James Baker said his experience as a judge made the decision more complicated; he explained Butner was exercising his first amendment rights, making the comments as a private citizen before he was appointed.

"When he was not a member of the board of elections he had the right to make the posts that he did even if they were offensive to many people," Baker said.

Baker and NCSBE Secretary Rhonda Amoroso said the board should only consider Butner's behavior since he took office. During the meeting, Nancy Evans, Rowan County's Elections Dir. told the board Butner had been very fair and professional during their meetings since he came on board in July.

Still, Howard said Butner broke the NCSBE's social media policy and by endorsing elected officials, eroded the public's faith they would have fair elections.

"If you're in charge of counting the votes everybody should be confident that you're going to count everyone's vote equal," he said.

Where all board members seemed to agree, is that given the chance they wouldn't make the same decision.

"Had we known about these things from the past, he never would have been appointed," Howard said.

The state GOP will now send the names of nominees for Butner's replacement to the NCSBE. Howard said they plan to have the position filled before Rowan County's municipal elections in November.

Butner could appeal the board's ruling in court; Howard said the board was prepared for that.

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