Officials are being allowed to trawl databases including the Royal Mail and the Student Loans Company to track down missing voters in a new trial.
Data matching could be used to fill in gaps in the electoral register ahead of the launch of individual voter registration in 2014.
Ministers say the technique is as accurate as ID cards – but it has raised privacy concerns.
Labour peers said it would have been easier if ID cards had been introduced.
The ID card scheme was scrapped by the coalition government on privacy, cost and civil liberties grounds – but electoral registration officers are now faced with the problem of verifying the identity of millions of voters without a central register.
Labour peer Baroness Hayter said the government “is no doubt ruing the day” it decided to scrap ID cards.
“All these hurdles they are now trying to go through to get a more accurate electoral register would not have been there if we had kept ID cards,” she told BBC News.
Labour peer Lord Maxton has called in the House of Lords for “smart card technology with a central database”.
But Lib Dem minister Lord Wallace of Saltaire said it was possible to verify people’s identities using information held on existing government databases.
He told peers “we do not rue the day when ID cards were dropped” because new techniques for comparing databases allowed “identity assurance and a simpler relationship between the citizen and the state, which would not only be more efficient but astonishingly cheaper than the original ID scheme”.