Every vote counts, so they say, but a lot of people, no matter how seriously they take their civic responsibility, probably derive some small comfort from the thought that their own vote probably doesn't make that much of a difference. If the guy you voted for loses, then fine, you can spend the next few years griping about the guy who won, safe in the knowledge that you didn't vote for him anyway. And if the guy you voted for wins, well, it's only because lots and lots of other people voted for him, too—so if you ever come to regret casting your ballot in his direction, you can always shrug and say that everyone else was doing it, too. And since you cast your ballot secretly anyway, no one needs to know that you share any of the blame.
But what if your vote was the only one that counted? Would it affect your decision, or how you made it? And what if the entire world knew that it was you who was going to cast that deciding vote? What if you couldn't share the responsibility with millions of other voters? What if the entire world was holding you accountable?
That's the situation that poor, divorced, drunken, working schlub Earnest "Bud" Johnson (Kevin Costner) finds himself in when a handful of errors, mechanical and otherwise, lead to a situation in which an entire presidential election hinges on him, and him alone. Just as the election in 2000 hinged on Florida, so too this election—in an unspecified year—hinges on Bud's home state of New Mexico. And instead of going through weeks of recounts and legal maneuvers, the state has determined, almost instantaneously, that everything hinges on Bud's town of Texico, in a county so small that every single registered voter can be phoned in just a few hours.
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