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Sarasota Monday, Sep. 30, 2019 3 weeks ago

Sarasota student wants to lower the school board voting age

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Bear Mancinni has always had an interest in government. His newest venture is getting the voting age for Sarasota School Board elections lowered to 16.
by: Brynn Mechem Staff Writer

Although most 15-year-olds are concerned with finding the perfect outfit to wear to school or fretting over a date to the Homecoming dance, one has a larger issue in mind: the voting age for Sarasota school board elections.

Bear Mancinni, a former Pine View School student who is now home-schooled, wants to get a bill passed to lower the voting age to 16 for school board elections in Sarasota County.

“Every 16-year-old in Florida has taken civics,” Mancinni said. “I didn’t believe that all 16-year-olds would necessarily be intelligent and capable voters if they were voting in every election, like the mayor or city council, so I just chose the school board because it most affects that age group.”

Similar policies have been implemented in other states, such as the municipalities of Tacoma Park and Hyattsville in Maryland. In its first iteration, a 2013 municipal election, the turnout rate among newly registered 16- and 17-year-old voters was 44% while the overall turnout was 11%.

On Sept. 17, he asked the school board for endorsement of his bill before he sent it to legislators. 

Although school board members commended Mancinni’s proposal, they expressed concerns that it would have a difficult time making it to the legislative floor. 

Committee week for Florida legislator was Sept. 16-20 during which, legislators hear bills and choose six to carry. Some school board members worried that Mancinni’s bill wouldn’t make the cut.  

“I realize that probably, with the speed of the government, it wouldn’t happen this year,” Mancinni said. “But I’m turning 16 this spring and there’s school board elections so I thought I’d try.” 

Mancinni’s mom, Beth Adams, said Mancinni took an interest in the school board from a young age. Over the years, he has attended various meetings, sometimes to watch but other times to express his concerns.

“Some people say I raised this in him, but that’s not true,” Adams said. “He has a genuine interest. My job as mom is to be his driver so if Bear wants to come to the school board, we go to the school board. If he wants to go to Teen Court, I hang out at Teen Court.” 

When asked if he’s always been interested in government, Mancinni smiled sheepishly.

“I mean, I guess,” he said. “There were probably some early years of my life when politics hadn’t crossed my mind, but that’s the early time where it never crosses anyone’s mind. If I had the choice of being a government official or not being a government official, I’d be a government official.”

In the previous school board election, Adams estimated that more than 200 of her friends voted for a candidate whom Mancinni recommended.

“A number of friends wrote to me and said, ‘Just tell me, in a list, who Bear wants me to vote for,’” Adams said. 

Although he’s 15, Mancinni said he is considering applying to college soon. He said he would most likely apply to New College, where he would study economics.

His most immediate goal aside from the voting age policy? Attaining the rank of Eagle Scout after he built a little, free library near Pine View. 

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