TODAY sees residents from all over Swindon head to the polls to vote in vital local and European elections.

Over the last six weeks councillors and candidates have been pounding the streets and putting leaflets through doors in an attempt to gain votes.

In total there are 20 seats up for grabs so the make-up of the council and ultimately the future direction of Swindon will be decided. Almost all wards have one seat on the line, with the exception of Ridgeway which has none and St Andrews which has two.

The polls will open from 7am-10pm, after which a full count will take place at the Oasis Leisure Centre, with the result expected at some point after midnight.

Over the last few months preparations have been carried out by the election team to ensure everything runs smoothly throughout the day.

A team of more than 500 staff are involved in the operation, from verifying the postal votes to manning the 94 polling stations.

Deputy returning officer Sally Sprason said: “The office is a really busy and exciting place at the moment as there is so much going on.

“The phone is constantly ringing with people asking questions as to whether they are on the electoral register or worried they have misplaced their card.

“We have been sending out the equipment to the polling stations and making sure everyone knows what they are doing on the day.

“Everything is in place so we are confident everything will run smoothly.”

Although today is the big day, many will have already had their say through postal voting, which has seen a big rise.

“There has been a huge increase in the amount of postal votes we have sent out,” said Sally.

“While we don’t know how many votes there are until the count, we sent out around 28,500, which is more than 10,000 more than at the last European election.”

The average turnout at the last local election was around 30 per cent, although the high-profile nature of the European elections may increase this. However, the Met Office has issued a weather warning as they are expecting heavy rain in the early part of the day, which may have an effect on the turnout.