Gov. Nikki Haley urged about 300 people at a tax day Tea Party rally Monday to ask their lawmakers to approve bills that would require voters to show photo IDs to cast their ballots and create a new state Department of Administration.
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann — a possible 2012 Republican presidential candidate — also spoke, praising Haley and South Carolina’s role leading the Tea Party movement.
Haley used last spring’s Tea Party rally to launch her move from an also-ran in the Republican governor’s primary to the GOP nominee and, eventually, governor. Her speech Monday echoed many of the same themes she spoke of last year, as well as repeating her opposition to the federal health care law and labor unions.
“The successes we saw in the last couple of weeks you did that,” Haley said. “You got loud, you got clear, and you said, ‘Elected officials work for us, we don’t work for them.’”
S.C. House and Senate lawmakers are divided over a voter ID bill. While acknowledging there is no recent proven instance of S.C. voter fraud, both Republican-controlled houses have approved bills that would require showing a photo ID to cast a vote. The Senate’s bill would allow more forms of ID, create a multi-day period before Election Day when voters could cast their ballots and exempt seniors from having to produce IDs.
Democrats oppose the bills as a waste of money — including $720,000 in start-up costs — and thinly veiled attempts to discourage voter turnout.
After Monday’s rally, Haley would not say whether she favored the House or Senate version of the ID bill, just that she is for a “picture-only ID.”
“Most everybody has an ID,” she said. “We will make sure everybody who needs an ID will get one. Anybody can show up at the (Department of Motor Vehicles) and get a voter ID.”
A Department of Administration, which Haley also asked those at the rally to support, would take over many of the duties now performed by the state Budget and Control Board. However, unlike the budget board, an Administration Department would report directly to the governor, giving her or him more control over much of the state’s bureaucracy. The bill would not eliminate the Budget and Control Board.
Bachmann praised South Carolina’s Tea Party movement for leading a national charge. She singled out the state’s freshman Republican U.S. House members — Jeff Duncan, Trey Gowdy, Mick Mulvaney and Tim Scott — for voting against a recent federal budget deal that kept the government operating.
Bachmann, of Minnesota, said she could make a decision on whether to run for president in June, adding she did not know whether she will take part in a May GOP presidential debate in Greenville.
Bachmann and Haley met privately before the rally. Haley said Bachmann did not ask for her endorsement, but she urged Bachmann to travel the state and meet with S.C. voters.
“She is a delightful person on a personal level,” Bachmann said of Haley. “She is engaging. She is very intelligent, and she is a proven leader.”
Monday was the third tax day rally organized by the Columbia Tea Party.
Sumter resident Nancy Pugh, 73, wore a T-shirt signed by Bachmann during a recent S.C. visit. Pugh praised Bachmann’s leadership and said the Tea Party — which successfully backed candidates in a number of 2010 elections — had changed the political debate in South Carolina and nationally.
“They’re starting to pay more attention to what we have to say,” Pugh said. “In the beginning, they thought we were a bunch of nuts.”