Swing Vote deals with the story of an election set somewhere in the near future where Bud Johnson (Kevin Costner), a lovable loser who is coasting through life and hasn’t a single political thought in his head, is thrust into an improbable dilemma. In response, he is coaxed by his 12-year-old daughter Molly (Madeline Carroll) to take more of a serious approach to life. Molly runs the household and sees an opportunity on election day to energize her father. The election is a “dead heat” with the sole deciding ballot in the hands of a mystified Bud, who is being wooed by candidates from both sides, the incumbent Republican Andrew Carington Boone (Kelsey Grammer) and the opposing Democrat (whose political office is never given), Donald Greenleaf (Dennis Hopper). Neither of the candidates Vice Presidential selections are mentioned.
Bud’s actual opinions (or lack thereof) are misinterpreted by the media, causing the candidates to flip-flop on several positions (The Democrats take a pro-life and anti-immigration stand, while the Republicans take a pro-environmental and pro gay marriage stand). In the end, Bud chooses to hold a final debate the day before he is set to recast his ballot. In a written speech, he confesses that he knows little to nothing about politics, or for that matter, life, and decides to ask questions from people in the mail. The movie ends with Bud casting his vote, though it is never revealed for whom he voted.
Filming of Swing Vote primarily took place in Albuquerque and Belen, New Mexico. Although not intended as a political statement on the upcoming presidential elections, when Kevin Costner found he couldn’t get the financing he wanted for Swing Vote, “to get it into theaters in time for the 2008 presidential election, he bankrolled it himself.”
Joshua Michael Stern, who directed and co-wrote the script with Jason Richman, had earlier precedents to follow. The premise of the film is similar to an Isaac Asimov story Franchise, in which elections have evolved until the entire decision is based on one man chosen by Multivac. The premise of Garson Kanin’s 1939 movie The Great Man Votes is also very similar to Swing Vote.