A post on the Guilford County Democratic Party’s Facebook page had some local Republican leaders up in arms this week. 

Among those who expressed concern were Guilford County Commissioner James Upchurch, the county’s newest Republican commissioner, and Guilford County Board of Education Member Pat Tillman who has announced he is running for the District 3 seat on the Guilford County Board of Commissioners.

The post (above) shows the Guilford County Democratic Party chair and others –  members of the You Can Vote organization – on a day when they went into a Guilford County school to register students to vote.

Upchurch, who recently switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican after being elected in 2020 as a Democrat, said he was stunned when he saw the photo and realized what was going on.

“If this isn’t illegal, it should be!” Upchurch wrote in an email to the Rhino Times.  “The Guilford County Democratic Party Chair and other Party leaders, under the guise of ‘You Can Vote’ volunteers, went to Smith High – and probably many others – to register students to vote.”

Upchurch added, “I guarantee you they didn’t register any Republicans while they were there. The school system knows damn well who these people are. This was a coordinated effort to influence students into voting for Democrats in 2022.”

He also reposted the picture and expressed his sentiments on Facebook.  That post drew a lot of feedback, both positive and negative.

One woman posted in response, “I’ve volunteered with this non-partisan organization and registered people from both parties. [You Can Vote] is very clear about wanting everyone who is eligible to vote to feel empowered and have the information they need to do so. This is needlessly inflammatory and makes me think a lot less of you.”

Over the years, in Guilford County, many conservatives have been concerned about the way schools handle student registration and voting.  In recent years, Guilford County Schools has begun busing students to the polls. Some conservatives have pointed out that those who are students are more likely to vote in favor of school bonds and also probably more likely to vote for Democrats.

Upchurch said that, aside from concerns of political bias, it’s unbelievable that, at a time when everyone is being kept out of schools due to COVID-19, this group is going into schools.

School Board member Tillman, a Republican who was also flabbergasted when he saw the post, made a similar point.

“I’m just blown away that we’ve said, because of Covid restrictions, no volunteers, mentors, parents, etc. are allowed in schools, but you’re a voter registration group – ‘Why come on in… We’d love to have you!’”

Tilman said he’s all for registering voters and all for Democracy, but there needs to be an effort to make sure that student voter registration efforts aren’t politically biased. He also said it concerns him that, on the local Democratic Party’s Facebook page, party officials are posting about this effort along with a bunch of congratulatory language. 

“This whole thing is messy,” he said.

Tilman added that some groups bill themselves as “non-partisan,” but are actually partisan.  He said the “League of Women Voters,” is an example of such a group.

He also said that he wonders if Republican-leaning groups would have been given the same access and he said he was going to look into this matter further.

Tillman said it really makes him wonder about bias in the current methodology for registering students in Guilford County Schools.