WITH just under six weeks until the local and European elections, the ballot boxes are being dusted down and voting slips are being issued.

A third of the seats across the borough are up for grabs on May 22 in the first election for two years.

And the European elections will also return six MEPs representing the south west region.

In 2012 the boundaries were redrawn meaning all of the 59 seats were decided. This year the council seat that received the lowest number of votes in each ward in 2012 will be up for the election, with the exception of the Ridgeway Ward which only has one councillor.

While candidates and their supporters will be pounding the streets looking for votes, much of the hard work making elections a success goes on behind the scenes.

Sally Sprason is the Deputy Returning Officer who, along with her team, is responsible for making sure everything runs smoothly and to plan.

In total about 500 people have been recruited to help run the election. This will include people to man the 94 polling stations around the town as well as carry out the count on the night so everyone will know the results as soon as possible.

“It’s a very busy time for us all but fun at the same time,” said Sally, whose role is entirely non-political.

“We are all checking, double checking and then checking again to make sure everything runs smoothly on the day. “We need to make sure all the polling stations will open on the day and be adequately staffed as well as making sure all the voting slips are sent out.

“It is a big operation and we have already trained about 300 of the team so when May 22 comes everyone will be ready.”

As well organising the voting on the day, Sally is also responsible for arranging all the postal votes, something which has dramatically increased in recent years.

She said: “At the last European elections we had about 18,000 postal votes. This time that has risen to about 30,000 which is obviously a huge increase.

“Now people do not have to have a reason for the postal vote it has become much more convenient to people who want to vote but often can’t because of jobs or families.”

Sally has also urged everyone to make sure they are registered to vote to make sure they can have their say in what will be key elections for the future of the town.

If anyone has still not registered to vote there is still time to do so as registrations ends on My 7. Registration forms can be obtained be visiting www.swindon.gov.