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Members of the Absentee Special Precinct Board of Cerro Gordo County prepare ballots for counting at The Music Man Square in Mason City on Monday prior to election day in 2016.

MASON CITY | Absentee voting has become so popular in recent years that the county has had to make special arrangements to house the ballots until they are counted.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors approved an agreement with the Mason City Foundation to use The Music Man Square as a depository for the 2018 elections, the same as was done in 2016.

"It worked out well," said Deputy Auditor Sandy Shonka. "And the security was great."

Shonka said absentee votes had been housed in the courthouse annex, a small area next to the courthouse, through 2014. The switch was made to The Music Man Square in 2016 when there were more than 7,000 absentee votes. The same figure is anticipated for this year, she said.

As they are received, the absentee votes are stored in a vault at the courthouse. Then they are transported to The Music Man Square where they are counted by a bipartisan group of 21 Republicans, Democrats and Independents.

They make sure that all the ballots are sealed and signed. Then the 7,000-plus ballots must be counted to make sure their count matches the count recorded at the auditor's office from the mailed-in votes and those of people who voted in person.

The ballots are then returned to the courthouse where they are the first ones tallied after the polls close on election night.

The county will pay $640 for the two days, "a fair price," according to Supervisor Tim Latham.

In other business, supervisors confirmed the reappointments of Shonka, Becky Kirchgatter and Tracie Siemers as deputy auditors, a formality but one that is reqired by state law, said Human Resources Director Tom Meyer.

In further business, supervisors authorized Chairman Casey Callanan to sign a letter of support for the Pyrotechnics Guild International convention to be held in the North Iowa Events Center in August.

The convention has been held there in previous years and is under consideration for this year.

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