Liu wins ASB presidency amid higher turnout

Drew Keller, Author

"Vote" poster and smartphone QR code outside the Student Activities Office. Voter turnout in the 2014 election sharply increased from previous years. Photo by Drew Keller.
“Vote” poster and smartphone QR code outside the Student Activities Office. Voter turnout in the 2014 election sharply increased from previous years. Photo by Drew Keller.

Palo Alto High School’s student government officers for the 2014-15 school year, including future ASB President Claire Liu, have been chosen in an Associated Student Body (ASB) election marked by the highest voter turnout in years.

According to Student Activities Director Matt Hall, 34 percent of all Paly students voted over the course of the weeklong election period, a significant rise from last year’s 28 percent and the previous year’s 18 percent.

Hall attributed the increase to better accessibility: it was possible to vote not just at the school’s voting station, but also online at home or on students’ mobile devices by using QR codes posted around the school.

“We’ve had a nice steady rise [in student voting rates],” Hall said. “And we had some good races.”

According to Hall, the actual participation rate was higher than the gross percentage suggests because the gross figure includes seniors, who cannot vote for next year’s officers. Discounting these students, 43 percent of those eligible to vote did so, a rate that surpassed Hall’s goal of 40 percent. However, according to Hall, rates are still much lower than at Gunn High School, where close to 80 percent of eligible voters participate.

Liu, who will serve as next year’s ASB President after winning an uncontested election, expressed optimism about the increased turnout.

“This [the increase] is super exciting, obviously, because it means more Paly students are coming out to cast their ballots and make their voices heard,” Liu said. “It’s a sign that the student body is taking ASB elections more seriously and expressing interest and concern in who they want to select to lead the school and to serve as a voice of the Paly student community.”

Liu highlighted one-candidate races, such as hers, as one of the negative aspects of the election.

“For many of the positions, there seemed to be a lot of intense competition because each candidate was so strong,” Liu said. “[But] For some positions, there was only one person running – for example, mine. This is something I’d like to work on changing in the future. Having lots of people running for a position gives the student body more people to choose from.”

This year, four of the twelve total positions were won by an uncontested candidate: ASB President by Liu, ASB Treasurer by junior Courtney Hull, Senior President by junior Maya Ben-Efraim, and Sophomore President by freshman Noa Ben-Efraim. However, there were also two three-way races for Senior Vice President and Sophomore Vice President, won by Olivia Scola and Anmol Nagar, respectively.

Due to the election of current sophomores Joseph Kao and Reid Walters, two of the four schoolwide positions will be held by juniors next year. Kao will take the position of ASB Secretary while Walters will serve as ASB Vice President.

“I’m excited to work with the whole school and a variety of grade levels,” Walters said. “This upcoming year as ASB Vice President I’ll mainly be working with clubs and will be the connection between them and ASB. This will be different from the role that I played in ASB this year as a class officer where I worked mainly with my grade.”

Like Walters, Liu looks forward to playing an important role at Paly next year.

“I’m really excited about ASB next year,” Liu said. “I’m looking forward to serving as a voice for Paly’s student body and focusing on social climate at school, meaning issues of stress, tolerance, [and] bullying.”

Election Results:

ASB President: junior Claire Liu

ASB Vice President: sophomore Reid Walters

ASB Treasurer: junior Courtney Hull

ASB Secretary: sophomore Joseph Kao

Senior President: Maya Ben-Efraim

Senior Vice President: Olivia Scola

Junior President: William Zhou

Junior Vice President: Eli Friedlander

Sophomore President: Noa Ben-Efraim

Sophomore Vice President: Anmol Nagar

Freshman President and Vice President: to be elected in fall 2014.