By Brian Sikma and Collin Roth
On December 5, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel followed up on Media Trackers’ report about potential election irregularities at a property owned by state Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee). The paper reported that new information had emerged in the story and that Russell Collins, the man originally believed to be ineligible to vote, was indeed eligible to vote in the April 5 election after being released from custody on March 15, 2011, ahead of the date listed in court documents.
Court records obtained by Media Trackers and reviewed by various news organizations, including the Journal Sentinel’s Dan Bice, showed that Collins had, as of April 5, 2011, not completed all aspects of his sentence for a felony that he earned in late 2010. According to the December 5 story, Bice reported that in a phone call made approximately ten days after he first reported the story, he learned new information about the case. Oddly, however, the Journal Sentinel sought to blame Media Trackers for the fact not coming to light sooner.
Here is what the Journal Sentinel reported on November 21 when it first wrote about the questions surrounding Senator Taylor, her mother, and the property owned by the senator at 1018 N. 35th Street:
Staffers at Media Trackers raised questions regarding several of the same-day registrants, including Russell Collins, 44, of Milwaukee. Records show Collins was convicted of a Class G felony for theft last year, and he was still doing work-release at the County Correctional Facility-South at the time of the April election.
Felons are prohibited from voting in Wisconsin elections until they complete their sentences, including probation, work-release or parole.
The Journal Sentinel, as evident from the quote above, verified that Mr. Collins had indeed committed a felony and was, according to court records, ineligible to vote on April 5, 2011. Presumably from the very language the paper used on November 21 it was satisfied that records did indeed show that Mr. Collins was not yet eligible to vote as of the April 5 election.
In an e-mail exchange with Media Trackers, Dan Bice did say on December 4 that he believed the information available at the time he wrote the first story was accurate. “As far as I can tell, you are correct that the records you provided us were factual.”
We are more than pleased that after nearly two weeks, the Journal Sentinel has decided to help in this investigation by uncovering more facts. It is good to know that Mr. Collins did not violate state election law and did not take advantage of Lena J. Taylor, the senator’s mother, who corroborated for him on his same day voter registration form.
That established, what about the other 35 registered voters at Senator Taylor’s property?
Russell Collins was just 1 of 36 registered voters at that home, and 1 of 23 who voted on April 5 from a residence that is supposedly zoned for no more than 18 people. So as much as Senator Taylor, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and left-wing bloggers might wish to say “case closed, nothing to see here” there still remains 35 unanswered questions dealing with several important issues.