Stopped in at the Phoenix City Hall voting center this morning to cast my vote for the city’s next mayor. I felt kind of bad doing it, because I very nearly woke up the sleepy polling volunteers. I was in and out in 3 minutes, since I was the only voter in the room. That was long enough to have the following pithy conversation.

Gee, this bunch can't top the Cardinals' ratings?

Me: “So you don’t look so busy. Was it like this Saturday, too?”

Old Tired Lady: “Yep. Saturday, we had 14 people stop by all day.”

Nowadays, the vast majority of Phoenix voters vote by mail, as Lynh Bui’s story from azcentral.com this afternoon explains. The headline: “Phoenix turnout already exceeds last mayoral election.” As Lynh explains it, we’re actually trending toward a relatively busy 2011 election, compared to years previous:

More than 105,000 voters have turned in their early mail-in ballots and more than 3,000 have voted in-person for the Phoenix mayor and City Council election.

The more than 108,000 ballots cast so far in this election means the city already has surpassed the nearly 98,000 ballots that were cast in the last mayoral race four years ago.

I guess that’s supposed to feel like good news, but to me it’s cause for despair … mostly because I enjoy dabbling in statistics. I know — there’s lies, damn lies and statistics. But here’s one way of looking at Election 2011:

Total population of Phoenix, per the 2010 census ……. 1,536,630.

Voting age population of Phoenix, 2010 ………………….. 1,091,360.

Number of folks who actually registered to vote ………… 650,000 or so.

Number of registered voters who bother to vote ………… 150,000 or so, or a “better than expected” 24 percent turnout.

You follow I’m sure: In the sixth-largest city in America, the race to run the place for the next four years will only manage to interest about 14 percent of those who could vote — and less than 10 percent of residents overall. Here’s a bit of context for you, by way of comparison:

As bad as the Arizona Cardinals were last season, they still managed to entice about 20 percent of the Valley’s households to watch them on TV every Sunday. The moral to the story? Maybe someone should have persuaded Kurt Warner to run. Or maybe this race could have used more cheerleaders and beer and fewer direct mail hit pieces about non-issues like the City North vote.