One aspect of electoral registration, and the potential problems with making registration voluntary, is the knock-on effect on credit and social mobility. That was the aspect which Liberal Democrat peer (Lord) Chris Rennard took up during a debate in the Lords this week:
Lord Rennard: My Lords, does the Minister accept that it really is necessary to carry out a thorough, door-to-door, face-to-face canvass in order to ensure both the accuracy and the completeness of the electoral register? Does he accept that failure to do so not only threatens the integrity of the democratic process but could also cause problems for people trying to obtain credit? Credit agencies check that people are on the electoral register to ensure that they can have credit, and failure to maintain the register in this way could mean that people are denied credit and businesses are unable to supply goods and services. That would be damaging to the economy and to social mobility.
Lord McNally: That is an interesting point. If I may return to the central point of the question, yes, doorstep canvassing plays a vital role in ensuring that registers are complete and accurate. That is why in both 2014 and 2015 door-to-door canvassers will be used by electoral registration officers to ask people to register to vote.
Not all the exchanges were quite so serious:
Lord Kakkar: My Lords, what impact might the opportunity to vote for an elected second Chamber have on voluntary voter registration?
Lord McNally: I think that it would have them flocking to register in their millions. The opportunity and the excitement that that would generate would be almost boundless.