The Enforcement Act of 1870, also known as the Civil Rights Act of 1870 or First Ku Klux Klan Act, or Force Act was a United States federal law written to empower the President with the legal authority to enforce the first section of the Fifteenth Amendment throughout the United States. The act was the first of three Enforcement Acts passed by the United States Congress from 1870 to 1871 during the Reconstruction Era to combat attacks on the suffrage rights of African Americans from state officials or violent groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
The bill H.R. 1293 was first introduced into the House by Republican John Bingham from Ohio on February 21, 1870, but not discussed until May 16, 1870. Unlike the House bill, the Senate bill S. 810 grew from several different bills from various Senators. The first proposed bill was submitted to the Senate in February 1870 by Sen. George F. Edmunds from Vermont followed by Sen. Oliver P. Morton from Indiana, Sen. Charles Sumner from Massachusetts, and Sen. William Stewart from Nevada. After three months of rewriting in the Committee on the Judiciary, the final version of the bill was introduced onto the Senate floor on April 19, 1870. The act was passed by Congress in May 1870 and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on May 31, 1870.
The Enforcement Act of 1870 prohibited discrimination by state officials in voter registration on the basis of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. It established penalties for interfering with a person's right to vote and gave federal courts the power to enforce the act. The act also authorized the President to employ the use of the army to uphold the act and the use of federal marshals to bring charges against offenders for election fraud, the bribery or intimidation of voters, and conspiracies to prevent citizens from exercising their constitutional rights.