By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Mar 30, 2020 at 2:02 PM

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Social distancing doesn’t mean you have to forego your civic duty, especially in this electronic age. There are two big events coming up that you shouldn’t – and in one case mustn’t – skip: the April election and the 2020 census.

Of course, the election is optional – though everyone should participate – and the census is mandatory – everyone must participate.

First, the must-do ...

2020 Census

For decades, the every-10-year count of the American population was done door-to-door, face-to-face. Thankfully, it has now largely moved to the internet and you have likely received a mailing (I’ve gotten two so far) at your home with details on how to fill out the census form.

Those should've landed in your mailbox by Friday, March 20, and they look like this:

This is important because the decennial count is used to allot federal dollars to communities and to determine representation in Congress. If folks don’t fill it out, their town, their state will get less funding for all kinds of things, including schools and roads, and they will be underrepresented in the Senate and House of Representatives. No one wants that, right?

But the Census Bureau is a little worried that with the current coronavirus outbreak, its count won’t proceed effectively.

In an in-depth look at the issues facing the census this year, The New York Times wrote, "The 2020 census already was destined to be an even more daunting venture – the first ever conducted mostly online, in a deeply polarized nation where mistrust of the government and immigrants fearful of authorities could make an accurate count harder than in recent memory. The coronavirus outbreak adds new layers of uncertainty."

So, take the code you get in the mail and head over to 2020census.gov.

You can also respond by mail or by phone. Details are at the website. If you didn’t get a mailing with a code, you can call (844) 330-2020.

Census information is confidential for 72 years.

April 7 election

So far, Wisconsin’s April 7 election – which includes the presidential primary, the MPS funding referendum and the Milwaukee mayoral race, among others – has not been postponed, but you have some options, though walking in for early voting is now out of the question.

But you can take advantage of drive-up absentee voting at the Zeidler Municipal Building, 841 N. Broadway, Downtown, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. weekdays and 10-3 on Saturdays and Sundays through April 5.

You may also request an application for an absentee ballot by Friday, April 3, though you must be registered to vote by Monday, March 30.

The application can be found here (in PDF format), or you can email your request to absenteeballot@milwaukee.gov, including your full name, voting address, preferred delivery method (email or postal mail) and the specific election for which you are requesting a ballot.

For complete information on Wisconsin elections, visit myvote.wi.gov/en-us, which is also where already registered voters can directly request absentee ballots.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in an episode of TV's "Party of Five," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.