The Franklin County Board of Elections has taken steps to shorten lines on election day, but with a long ballot and an 80-percent voter turnout projected for the state, officials say there likely still will be a wait at the polls.

The Franklin County Board of Elections has taken steps to shorten lines on election day, but with a long ballot and an 80-percent voter turnout projected for the state, officials say there likely still will be a wait at the polls.

"Delays are going to be unavoidable," said Ben Piscitelli, spokesman for the Franklin County Board of Elections. "What we've tried to do is minimize that as best we can."

The largest step the county has taken to reduce lines has been to buy more voting machine. The county now has 4,639 machines, twice the number of machines that were in place during the 2004 presidential elections when many voters were forced to wait in long lines.

The elections board finalized voting machine assignments for the county's 534 polling locations Friday, with assignments based on recommendations from a consulting firm.

With the recommendations, the county's goal was to move more voting machines to precincts that had the longest ballots and where larger numbers of voters were projected to turn out, Piscitelli said.

Voters in Columbus are most likely to see long lines, Piscitelli said, because ballots for city precincts are the longest. However, according to a plan approved by the board of elections, most precincts in the Northland area will have fewer voting machines Nov. 4 than voters saw during the March primaries.

Franklin County has a record registration for this election, with 846,343 voters registered. The Ohio Secretary of State's Office projects that 80 percent of voters will cast ballots next week.

With that in mind, Piscitelli said the Franklin County Board of Elections increased its efforts to encourage people to apply for absentee ballots, sending out applications to registered voters across the county.

Absentee ballots were recommended to 231,000 voters, Piscitelli said, and 141,000 have been returned to the board of elections so far.

In addition to the push for absentee ballots, the board of elections has encouraged residents to vote early at Veterans Memorial, Piscitelli said.

As of Monday, more than 32,000 voters had cast ballots at Veterans Memorial, he said, but he warned that even early voters have been subject to waiting in line at some points.

With all of the steps taken by the county, Piscitelli said the office is confident that voters won't see the long lines they saw in 2004.

"We have more machines. We have expanded absentee voting. We have voting by mail," he said.

jnesbitt@thisweeknews.com