Preface: Election Law in the Eighties


The editors of the Review of Law and Social Change selected federal election law as the theme for our 1980 Colloquium because we believed the 1980 election would reflect to the greatest extent yet the effects of the Supreme Court’s Buckley v. Valeo decision and of the Federal Election Campaign Act Amendments of 1976. The unexpected landslide victories in the 1980 presidential and congressional elections, and the news media’s general failure to examine the relationship between these victories and federal election laws, reaffirmed our belief that a careful examination of the new laws was necessary. Explanations of the 1980 election results in terms of a national swing to the right or a disenchantment with the status quo are too simplistic. More subtle, complex, but nonetheless dramatic forces were at work in the 1980 election. The purpose of the Colloquium was to explore and evaluate these forces, for more than any other election, the 1980 election witnessed the rise of political action committees, negative spending, the emergence of the independent candidate, and the introduction of a plethora of laws having discriminatory effects upon candidates’ access to the ballot, funding, and media.

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