VOTERS will head to polling stations throughout Flintshire today to make their voices heard as one of the most hotly contested election races ever draws to a close.
From 7am today 99 stations will open across Alyn and Deeside and Delyn, with large swings needed in both constituencies to overturn the Labour incumbents.
At 10pm polling will close and all votes will be sealed in the ballot boxes and delivered to Flint Pavilion, where 70 members of counting staff will be ready for action.
Flintshire’s acting returning officer Colin Everett, the county council’s chief executive, said he expects the results at about 2am tomorrow.
Turnout across the county’s two constituencies in 2010 is expected to be higher than the 69,500 who voted in Labour candidates Mark Tami and David Hanson in 2005.
There are a total of 113,979 people registered to vote in Flintshire.
Alyn and Deeside has been a Labour stronghold since 1983 and David Hanson has been Delyn’s Westminster representative since 1992, in what is traditionally a red corner of Wales.
The biggest challenge to Mr Tami is likely to come from Cambridge law and politics graduate Will Gallagher, 28, who was born in Chester and has lived in Flintshire nearly all his life.
Liberal Democrat Paul Brighton came third in 2005 and again stands in Alyn and Deeside.
Plaid Cymru will be looking to improve on its 3.7% share from the last election, but candidate Maurice Jones faces a tough task in a constituency where only about 40% of residents were born in Wales and just 11.2% are Welsh-speaking.
The BNP’s national spokesman John Walker – a Mancot community councillor – is also standing, along with 21-year-old UKIP candidate James Howson.
David Hanson faces a fresh set of challengers in Delyn, with Tory hopeful Antoinette Sandbach – a legal aid lawyer who narrowly missed out on election to the Welsh Assembly in 2007 – optimistic about her chances of ending her Labour counterpart’s 18-year tenure.
Ex-chief constable Bill Brereton hopes to make gains for the Liberal Democrats.
Former teacher Peter Ryder stands for Plaid Cymru, Andrew Haigh for UKIP and the BNP’s fledgling candidate is Jennifer Matthys – the daughter of controversial party leader Nick Griffin.