Town meeting voters will get a treat this year, as the Electronic Balloting Committee has secured electronic voting devices free of charge for the 2014 meeting.

The committee met with Town Meeting Moderator Friend Weiler last week to update him on the progress of the committee and its plans for future meetings. Susan Ka- dar, acting chair of the electronic balloting committee, said Weiler was “pleasantly surprised” with the amount of work the committee had done to move forward with electronic balloting.

The committee has obtained a commitment from Option Technologies, an audi- ence response system company, to attend the March 2014 Annual Town Meeting and to set up the electronic balloting devices free of charge for use at the meeting. The committee will hold a public meeting on Jan. 30 in order to inform vot- ers on the use of the devices and how the process will go for the town meeting. 

“Depending on voters’ enthusiasm, we may have the same offer from them for the 2015 meeting, which is very exciting,” Kadar said. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for the town.”

At the 2014 meeting, volunteers will assist voters in the process of obtaining a device and will explain how to use it. Kadar said the experience for voters should be simple and will expedite the voting process. 

"This technology does a number of things that we consider an enormous advantage for town meeting," she said. "It is very fast, accurate, keeps a record of yes's, no's and abstentions, offers anonymity to the voter and eliminates the shouting. It's difficult to think of any part of it that is not an advantage."

Kadar said it is the hope of the committee that more voters will come to town meeting because their vote will now be anonymous, thanks to the technology. It will also prevent unregistered voters from shouting out in meetings or voting.

Through their research, committee members have learned that at least 24 towns in Massachusetts are already in contract negotiations with Options Technology to initiate the new voting system for the upcoming town meetings.

“Obviously, this is the way other towns are thinking, too,” Kadar said. “It’s good to know that we are not the only town that is trying to move forward into the 21st Century.”

Options Technology will arrive the Thursday before Town Meeting to set everything up and will stay for the duration of the meeting. Voters who have questions or would like to learn more about the devices may attend the Jan. 30 meeting.