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High School Ballot Harvesting Boss Gets Promoted

Jan 20, 2022 GREENSBORO — Thanks to this week’s announcement that Guilford County Schools Superintendent Sharon Contreras announced is leaving her job in order to “continue the great work we have done here and expand it to reach even more districts across the state,” we find reason to bring up some unfinished business involving the good doctor.

Contreras’ activism also put her on the Biden Administration’s radar.

Something most people forgot is that her office approved the use of school buses in a voter-harvesting program that hauled certain students off campus during school hours so that teachers would make sure they voted they way they were supposed to.

Our gravest concern is that Contreras, the third highest-paid government employee in NC’s Triad Cities, will use her new position to expand the school system’s disastrous student-voter mobilization program that, but for the swift action of a few election officials, would have resulted in a massive civil rights lawsuit against the county.

Their “nonpartisan” voter-harvesting program seemed legal until we started learning more details.

Problems arose after Republican County Commissioner, Justin Conrad, accidentally reported details of an actual civil rights crime that had been committed by a school employee who was “assisting” one special education student a little too aggressively.

From what we now know about the incident, the unnamed student, who was at the higher end of the special populations spectrum, agreed with her parents that she would vote a Republican ballot during the March 2020 primary.

The parents may have wanted her to vote Republican, but other government employees wouldn’t have it.

Investigating a Civil Rights Crime

Conrad’s post in social media said, “according to multiple witnesses . . . the teacher insisted she [the special needs student] was given an incorrect ballot [and . . .] pressed the issue to the point that the student was in tears and the teacher was asked to leave the area.”

We viewed Conrad’s account of the story as serious evidence that a special-needs student voter was intimidated and bullied to tears by a school employee just because she selected a Republican ballot.

Upon learning about Conrad’s post, we attempted to learn the facts behind the case, starting with the victim’s name . . . but it was too late.

We even ran some of our evidence past former DOJ Civil Rights Attorney, J. Christian Adams, and he got excited. Before his 2009 resignation, Adams spent his 20-year career fighting exactly this type of voter intimidation and he knew what to do.

Our problem in moving forward with a civil rights lawsuit hinged on our interviewing the victim and her parents.

We could imagine some Guilford County attorney berating Conrad for his ill-advised revelation, because the financial civil penalties against the two county agencies could have run into the 5- or 6-digit range.

Did two government institutions participate and then cover up a violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act?

Conrad refused to give us the student’s name.

Not the crime. . . the coverup!

In response to the Conrad Facebook post, Guilford County Schools (GCS) skipped right over their usual media flacks and brought out a big gun. Whitney Oakley, school system chief academic officer. She worked with a cooperative journalist to tamp the story back into the ground.

A High Point “news” website led the GCS’ damage control with a Walter Duranty style piece on the subject, calling it all just one big “misunderstanding.” Evidence of this “news” article was soon scrubbed from their website but not before we obtained a copy (see reprinted version here). We quote from it below.

“The Board of Elections shared a concern from a poll worker about a student who was in conversation with a teacher. The situation was misinterpreted as interference with the voting process, but was a case of a teacher trying to console a visibly upset student whose parent had completed their registration form and determined the student’s party affiliation. At no time did the teacher act in a partisan or inappropriate manner,” – Whitney Oakley,

We noticed the spin mistress artfully avoided telling the public exactly how the student got upset, but the “journalist” also obtained statements from the other Guilford County agency that would have been on the hook if a civil rights lawsuit had proceeded, Elections Director, Charlie Collicut.

Guilford CBE Director, Charlie Collicut

“The elections staff did not make an error in the original issuance of the ballot,” he said, adding that both the N.C. State Board of Elections and Guilford County Schools had been informed about the incident..

He refused to comment further, but the helpful “journalist” added, “the N.C. State Board of Elections, by law, can’t comment on whether the agency is investigating a voting or election complaint.”

We wonder if the school system ever offered him a job.

While the “investigation” excuse effectively means they can cover up any matter they need to hide, we weren’t done.

It’s true that the law allows this coverup. And that’s how election officials can prevent the victim from exercising her private right of action, as allowed under federal civil rights law (52 US Code §20510).

Thankfully, legislative privilege overrides that level of secrecy, so we asked Rep George Cleveland to look into the matter. He obtained a doozy of an email response from SBE Director Karen “Bartlett” Bell. (See email here.)

As background, Bell admitted that the student was voting under North Carolina’s fraud-friendly Same-Day Registration (SDU) rules and had opted for a Republican ballot.

“Once the student began voting, there may have been confusion over whether she received the right ballot. A faculty member from her school became aware of the ballot, and became involved and requested a different party’s ballot for the voter.” – Bell’s email

Unless the voter complains, we wonder whose business it is after she was already marking their ballot. We also wonder how the “confused” person was informed of the situation.

Before you ask what gave the school employee the idea he could demand a different party ballot for one of his students without the student’s permission, Bell volunteered a strange answer.

“He was in the room as a qualified assistant for one or more students with disabilities in the process of voting.” -Bell’s email.

We see nothing in state law that suggests a person can herd in a gaggle of disabled high school kids with some sort of blanket authority to “assist” so aggressively.

We see no authority in state law for said “assistant” to demand a different party ballot for a voter without his/her permission, but the kicker to this entire crime was Director Bell’s rationalization for how she managed to hide the victim from any helpful civil rights attorneys.

“When the one stop worker explained to the student/voter and teacher why the Republican ballot was issued, the student voted his/her ballot and nothing further occurred. Because voting went as it should, no incident report was filed, so other than the director’s conversation, there is no record of names or further detail.” -Bell email.

Honestly, this story frustrated us to no end. Given the state’s and county’s coverup, we contacted attorneys, launched FOIA requests, and even attempted to canvass a list of possible students.

That said, our attorney contacted Collicut and concluded that Charlie had conducted a complete investigation without calling it an “incident,” and was thus able to avoid documenting any of it.

This was a long post, but it seemed necessary. The accompanying video version discusses You Can Vote, the “nonpartisan” group, run completely by high-dollar Democrats, that were allowed to hold rallies in order to whip students into voting.

From reports we received, only a few targeted-demographic schools received the full treatment. This included several weeks advanced notice, at least one pep rally, and the government-funded transportation to the polls during school hours. Students at schools in heavy-Republican areas just got a permission slip, sent out a few days before the approved school trip.

In conclusion . . . avoiding that lawsuit explains how Charlie Collicut managed to keep his well-paid government job, how Karen Bell managed to keep her even better government job, and how Dr. Sharon Contreras managed to step out of her fabulous government job and step into an even more influential (and lucrative?) gig in the private sector.

Of course, the Legislature has the authority to dig deeper into all sorts of dirt at the State Board of Elections . . . if they only knew where to dig.

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Click this image to view today’s video podcast.