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What The 2012 Election Would Have Looked Like Without Universal Suffrage

These five maps look at how the 2012 election would have played out before everyone could vote.

Posted on November 9, 2012, at 7:09 p.m. ET

President Barack Obama has been elected twice by a coalition that reflects the diversity of America. Republicans have struggled to win with ever-higher percentages of the shrinking share of the population that is white men — "a Mad Men party in a Modern Family world," in the words of one strategist.

But at America's founding, only white men could vote, and the franchise has only slowly expanded to include people of color, women, and — during the Vietnam War — people under 21. These maps show how American politics would have looked in that undemocratic past.

Map 1: 1850

Before 1870, only white men could vote. Here's how the election would have looked before the 15th Amendment.

Map 2: 1870

From 1870 to 1920, only men could vote. Under that scenario, the electoral map would have looked something like this.

Map 3: 1920

While women's suffrage passed in 1920, there were still huge impediments to minorities to vote during that period, for instance in the form of poll taxes (only finally outlawed by the 24th Amendment in 1964). So here's a version of the map that shows only white voters, men and women.

Map 4: 1970

After the voting age was lowered to 18 in 1971, young voters became a much more important part of the electorate. This map shows the 2012 results just among voters older than 24.

Map 5: The Actual Election

And here's how 2012 actually played out.

Data explanation:
Maps use the exit poll data available on 2012 presidential exit polls did not occur in AK, AR, DE, DC, GA, HI, ID, KY, LA, NE, ND, OK, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY. Data for those states without exit polls was extrapolated from regional demographic voting patterns.

Note: an earlier version of one map included incorrect markings for three states.

Thanks to BuzzFeed's data scientist Ky Harlin and our information designer, Jane Kelly, for pulling together the data and creating these maps.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.