Vote 2011: Polling begins across Wales

The people of Wales are going to the polls to elect the next Welsh Assembly Government.

Voters will choose 60 assembly members - 40 in constituency seats and 20 from regional lists.

They will also vote on whether to replace the first-past-the-post system for electing MPs to Westminster with the alternative vote (AV).

Polling stations opened at 0700 BST and close at 2200 BST. The first results will be announced during the night.

But after a decision by returning officers the count of votes cast in north Wales will not begin until Friday morning.

The leaders of the main four parties in Wales cast their votes on Thursday morning.

There are more than 2,500 polling stations across Wales.

The Electoral Commission has urged voters to arrive in good time, saying staff will not be able to issue voters with ballot papers after 2200 BST.

Voters can find out where their polling station is by checking their poll card or calling their local council.

The commission has offered guidance to help voters through the day.

Rhydian Thomas, deputy head of the Electoral Commission's Wales Office, said: "You'll be issued with three separate ballot papers: one to vote for your National Assembly constituency member, one for your National Assembly regional members and a third ballot paper for the voting system referendum.

"Simply mark each ballot paper with a single 'X'.

"If voting by post and you have forgotten to post your papers back, you can still deliver them by hand to their polling station or town hall by 10pm on polling day."

Postal votes

Mr Thomas said the commission had sent an information booklet on the election and referendum to every household in Wales, which is also available on its website.

"Make sure you've had a look at this before you go to the polling station, so you're ready to have your say," he said.

The AV referendum is taking place across the UK, but more than two million people are eligible to vote in it in Wales.

It is expected that around 400,000 Welsh postal votes will be cast in the referendum.

After the recent long dry spell, voters around Wales have been advised to take an umbrella with them to vote.

BBC Wales weather forecaster Derek Brockway said: "There's a risk of rain in north and west Wales with a chance of heavy showers in the afternoon."