LEWISTON — Voters may not have noticed a difference in casting their ballots with Maine’s new voting machines, but they were a huge upgrade for the clerks that do the counting.

“They are very sensitive,” Lewiston Ward 7 election worker Fernand Rivard said. “If you don’t put it in just right or you try to put it in too fast, it reverses. People are used to shoveling things in there like shoveling coal. But they can’t do that any more.”

It’s the first run for Maine’s new digital scanning voting machines. The state purchased the new DS200 voting machines for 128 municipalities this summer, and Tuesday’s ballot was the first big test.

The biggest feature for clerks is a touch screen with voter instructions. Voters fill out the ballots like they have before, filling in bubbles on the ballots with black pen or pencil to represent their votes.

The machine scans the ballots and tallies the votes. It then tells voters if they’ve filled in all the spaces, left races blank or voted twice. If the machine suspects they’ve made a mistake, it alerts the voter. They have the option of taking the ballot back and fixing the error or sending the ballot through as is.

That’s the benefit for ballot counters, Lewiston City Clerk Kathy Montejo said. Before, ballots with blanks or overvotes were sorted into a drawer, and possible errors were marked with a red line. Election clerks had to sort through those ballots at the end of the night.

“These machines catch those at the point it goes into the machine, and the voter knows on the spot,” Montejo said. “The voter can fix it or not, and we don’t have to count it at the end.”

Montejo said things went swimmingly Tuesday, with the unofficial count completed less than 56 minutes after all of the polls closed.

“We love, love the new machines,” Montejo said. “We’re going to keep them.”

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