Emmet Bowen votes at the polling place at Pioneer High...

Emmet Bowen votes at the polling place at Pioneer High School, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016, in Ann Arbor, Mich. Credit: AP / Junfu Han

As an Australian green card holder living in New York, I am not allowed to vote in the coming U.S. election, and I can’t vote at home because I’m a non-resident. This has left me stranded on the sidelines in two countries for several election cycles.

I seriously question the choices my fellow Aussies have made in recent years, such as the 2013 election of Tony Abbott, arguably Australia’s worst prime minister. But at least they turn up. Some 95 percent of more than 15 million eligible voters cast votes in the federal election in July.

In the United States, however, 93 million eligible voters could stay home on Nov. 8. That’s what happened in 2012. Just 57 percent of registered voters cast ballots in that election, and that’s not counting the millions who are eligible to vote but don’t appear on electoral rolls. In New York, the turnout in 2012 was 46 percent.

One explanation for this difference is each country’s level of comfort with compulsory voting.

In Australia, voting is a right, a privilege, but not a choice. The penalty for not voting is a $20 fine. In the United States it’s voluntary.

This exercise in individual freedom has me fearful as I watch the Republican and Democratic candidates approach the finish line. Voluntary voting feels like a dangerous freedom — the freedom to let others decide your fate.

Some people say eligible voters shouldn’t be bullied into the ballot box, but voluntary voting opens the door to bullies who want to prevent others from participating. In the past, this bullying came in the form of poll taxes, literacy tests, and character tests; today it comes as voter ID laws, voter registration requirements, limits on early voting and voter roll purges.

Compulsory voting coupled with comprehensive, fair voting rights legislation, would lead more people to start choosing the government they deserve.

Much of the assault on voting rights has come from the right wing, yet personal responsibility is central to the Republican philosophy. Hampering eligible voters’ access to electoral rolls and ballot boxes seems counterintuitive.

Other arguments in favor of choosing whether to vote are simply utopian. Sure, if we were all informed, engaged citizens, walking unobstructed to a nearby polling booth, then casting a ballot would be a natural extension of life in a civil society. But there’s a pretty low risk of this happening any time soon. In the meantime, eligible voters need to exercise their rights. A 2016 University of Kentucky study found that enforced compulsory voting systems also help to narrow the gender gap in political engagement.

This election cycle, I have met people with a much greater vested interest in this country than me, yet they are too overstretched to get involved, or they are so worn down by the brutally long primary process that their desire to engage has dissipated.

It’s understandable, but for those people who don’t get on the electoral rolls and vote others will choose a president with the power to change their lives.

Caroline Jumpertz is a Brooklyn- based writer.