Mahaska County Supervisor candidate may have violated state law

Mahaska County Supervisor Steve Wanders is seen handing out candy at the Mahaska County Courthouse on October 30. Early voting was taking place at the time the photo was taken.

Oskaloosa, Iowa- Mahaska County Supervisor Steve Wanders has been accused of violating state law on October 30, pertaining to electioneering at a voting precinct. Wanders was photographed by The Sun outside of the Mahaska County Courthouse wearing a “Vote Steve Wanders Supervisor” t-shirt, while handing out candy during the Oskaloosa Trick or Treat parade. A photo submitted to the Sun also shows candy handed out during the parade with “Vote Wanders Supervisor” stickers on them. At the time of the Oskaloosa Trick or Treat parade, the Mahaska County Auditor’s office was open for absentee voting, with voters being observed going into the courthouse to cast ballots. Wanders is on the November 6thmidterm election in the hotly contest Mahaska County Supervisor race.

            When The Sun reached out to Wanders regarding the issue, he acknowledged that he had been made aware that he may have broken electioneering laws.

            “It’s a learning deal for me. I didn’t realize I was breaking any laws so it was just a mistake on my part and I will own up to it,” Wanders said. “I will accept any consequences that come from it,” he said.

            He added that County Auditor Sue Brown contacted Wanders on Wednesday morning after being contacted by the Secretary of State’s office.

            “She just wanted me to be aware of it,” Wanders said.

            Iowa Code Section 39A.4 states “A person commits the crime of election misconduct in the third degree if the person willfully commits any of the following acts:

a. Election day acts. Any of the following on election day:

(1) Loitering, congregating, electioneering, posting signs, treating voters, or soliciting votes, during the receiving of the ballots, either on the premises of a polling place or within three hundred feet of an outside door of a building affording access to a room where the polls are held, or of an outside door of a building affording access to a hallway, corridor, stairway, or other means of reaching the room where the polls are held. This subparagraph does not apply to the posting of signs on private property not a polling place, except that the placement of a sign that is more than ninety square inches in size on a motor vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer, or its attachment to a motor vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer parked on public property within three hundred feet of a polling place is prohibited.” 

Election misconduct in the third degree is classified as a serious misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,850.

            Mahaska County Attorney Jim Blomgren said that he is unsure if charges will be filed in the case.

            “It’s my understanding that Mr. Wanders has been advised that what he did was inappropriate. At this point I can’t say whether or not there would be any charges filed,” Blomgren said.

            Blomgren said that he became aware of potential issue on Wednesday morning, October 31. He said that it is most likely that if charges were to be filed, it would be a decision from his office.

            “That’s my understanding that we would be involved if something was filed,” he said.

            Blomgren added that he does not have any specific timeline to deciding on if charge are warranted.

            “It depends on how quickly I can get ahold of Mr. Wanders and visit with him and see what he was doing and basically how he got in that circumstance,” he said. “It’s my understanding he’s had a conversation with county officials about it but not with me yet,” Blomgren added.

            The Iowa Secretary of State’s office confirmed to The Sun that they reached out to Mahaska County Auditor Sue Brown after receiving information about the issue.

             “Auditor Brown was not aware that candidate Wanders was allegedly engaged in campaign activity and she said that she would advise the candidate of laws related to electioneering at her earliest opportunity,” Communications Director Kevin Hall added.