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'human' to stay 'human' on primary ballot

CONCORD — A candidate known as “human” won’t appear as “Human” or “HUMAN” on the Sept. 9 Democratic primary ballot for Rochester Wards 1 and 6.

“I can’t believe how people at every step of the way have obstructed my ability to run for office,” David Montenegro, whose legal name is “human,” said Wednesday after the Ballot Law Commission’s 5-0 decision.

Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said to allow the candidate to use all uppercase letters would give his name more prominence than his primary opponent’s and would set a precedent. What if a person’s name is Winston, Scanlan asked, and he wants it to appear WINSton?

The decision means state election officials will not have to reprint and recall ballots in the Democratic primary battle that pits “human” against incumbent Rose Marie Rogers in Strafford County District 22.

Scanlan said the law allows candidates to use nicknames and not their official names, but does not allow candidates to decide how their name will appear on the ballot.

He said “human” was notified about how his name would appear on the ballot because it was unusual and also because the name was spelled differently in newspaper articles about his battle with the Division of Motor Vehicles over his request for a “COPSLIE” license plate.

Earlier this year, the state Supreme Court ruled the Division of Motor Vehicles regulation used to reject the “COPSLIE” vanity license plate request was unconstitutional and violated his right to free speech.

Montenegro claimed having his name appear as “human” on the ballot amounted to discrimination and violated his equal protection and open election rights under the state and federal constitutions.

He said on his declaration of candidacy, he wrote his name as HUMAN and that is how he wanted it to appear on the ballot. He said he would accept “Human” as well as “HUMAN,” and have all candidates’ names in upper case.

“What’s the point?” Ballot Law Commission member Roger Wellington of Concord asked Montenegro. “Why are you so special, a procedural change has to be made just for you?”

“I’m not asking for an exception,” Montenegro said, “I’m asking the Secretary of State to follow the law.”

After the decision, he said he would file with U.S. District Court to force election officials to comply with state law.

Commission Chair Brad Cook of Manchester said the overriding issue in making the decision was that legally Montenegro’s name was “human.”

Scanlan said attempts to clarify his legal name with “human” were not successful, but his office eventually received a probate court document showing the legal name was “human.”

Montenegro, who lists his mailing address in Durham, legally changed his name to “human” in Strafford County Probate Court.

After the ruling, Montenegro said all his correspondence from the Secretary of State was through certified mail, which delayed his hearing. He said the Democratic Party would not provide him with voter lists or allow him to use the political action committee ActBlue to raise money for his campaign.

“People have used every opportunity to block my attempt to get on the ballot and run for office,” Montenegro said. “That just increases my resolve to overcome the barriers and get elected.”

He said he is committed to fix New Hampshire.

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