The Influence Of The Posse Comitatus Act

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Posse comitatus, “the power or force of the county” this term refers to the ability of a sheriff to summon assistance from any able-bodied male over the age of 15. These men would be deputized in order to aid the sheriff in enforcing a number of civilian laws. These deputies could be from any profession and it was not uncommon for the members of the United States Army to be called on as deputies. Over time it became more and more common for soldiers to be used to enforce civilian laws including guarding polling places during the federal elections of the reconstruction period. However, that would change after the presidential election of 1876; because many southerners opposed both the outgoing Republican president and the Republican nominee, Hayes, federal troops assisted U.S. Marshalls in monitoring polling places under the guise of enforcing federal election laws and preventing former Confederate officers from illegally voting. …show more content…
Many people blamed the Democratic candidate’s loss on the use of federal troops; they claimed that the troops had intimidated the southern voters. The Democratic Party controlled Congress at the time and passed the Posse Comitatus Act in response to what they saw as the undue influence over the 1876 election. The Posse Comitatus Act made it a felony to use the army or the air force to enforce laws. Congressional debates indicate that the purpose of the Posse Comitatus Act was to both prohibit soldiers from responding to a marshal’s call to perform direct law enforcement actions as well as prevent federal troops from being used as law enforcement in former Confederate states that had reestablished civil