Election deniers will be on many ballots, making the stakes of the midterms more clear.
In this week's Republican primaries, voters showed they were willing to choose candidates who repeat Donald J. Trump's election lies and who seem determined to have a lot of political control over voting systems. The results show that the midterm elections in November could have a big impact on how free and fair elections are in the country.
In Pennsylvania, Republican voters united behind a candidate for governor, Doug Mastriano, who helped lead the brazen effort to overturn the state's 2020 election and chartered buses to the rally before the Capitol riot. Since then, Mastriano has promoted a constitutionally impossible effort to decertify President Biden's victory in his state.
In North Carolina, voters chose Representative Ted Budd, a G.O.P. Senate candidate who voted against certifying the 2020 election results and still won't say that Joe Biden was really elected.
And in Idaho, which Mr. Trump won by a large margin in 2020, 57 percent of voters supported two Republican candidates for secretary of state who spread election lies. However, they lost a three-way race to a rival who accepts Mr. Biden as president.
Tuesday's strong showings by election deniers, who will be running against each other in primaries across the country in the coming months, showed how dangerous the Trump-inspired movement could be.
Former Pennsylvania Republican Representative Charlie Dent said, "It's a big problem." He also said that the GOP needs to "show an alternative vision for the party." I don't think we're seeing enough of that right now. "Election issues have dominated a few high-profile Republican primaries so far, but G.O.P. candidates don't always put 2020 objections at the center of their pitches to voters. Instead, Republican primaries that lean hard to the right often boil down to trying to make people doubt that Mr. Biden will win. If candidates don't talk about it, they risk losing credibility with the party's core voters.
When talking to voters, many Republican candidates have put a lot of emphasis on a longer list of promises to make government more conservative. And candidates from both major parties are likely to talk about inflation and the economy in a lot of general election races.
Still, the issue of the election hangs over several races in states that are key to the presidential election. In the last year and a half, Republicans who want to win back governorships and take over top election offices have been falling over each other to appeal to voters who believe many false things about the 2020 election.
The biggest test will be next Tuesday in Georgia, where Mr. Trump has backed a group of candidates who are running against the governor, secretary of state, and attorney general who are already in office. These candidates are running on platforms that say the election shouldn't count.
Former Senator David Perdue, whom Mr. Trump picked to be governor, seems likely to lose to Gov. Brian Kemp, whom Mr. Trump still blames for his loss in Georgia in 2020. If no candidate gets the most votes in the primary, there could be a second round of voting in all three races.
Mr. Perdue and Representative Jody Hice, who is running against Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, have both made false claims that there was a lot of voter fraud in the 2020 Georgia elections. Mr. Perdue started a debate with Mr. Kemp by saying, "The 2020 election was stolen and fixed." Mr. Hice said that he would not have given Mr. Biden's win his stamp of approval.
The leading Republican candidate for the state's Senate seat, Herschel Walker, a former football player backed by Trump, said on Wednesday that he wasn't sure if Mr. Biden had been legally elected in 2020.
After giving a speech in Macon, Georgia, Mr. Walker told a reporter from The New York Times, "I don't know." "There were problems, I think. And I think everyone else thinks there were problems, which is why everyone is so upset right now."
But no Republican candidate for a major office in a swing state has done more than Mr. Mastriano in Pennsylvania to spread false election claims.
He is a state senator and a retired Army colonel. On January 6, 2021, he used $3,354 from his campaign to hire buses to go to Washington. In a report from the Senate Judiciary Committee, it was said that video footage proved that Mr. Mastriano had "passed through breached barricades and police lines" near the Capitol. Mr. Mastriano has denied breaking the lines, and there is no proof that he went inside the Capitol.
The York Daily Record says that in March, Mr. Mastriano held a campaign event in Gettysburg where people signed a petition asking Pennsylvania to decertify the state's 2020 results.
The push to decertify has become the latest litmus test for people who don't want the 2020 election to happen. It has also upset Republicans in Wisconsin, where one of the four main candidates for governor in the party has made it the main point of his campaign to stop Mr. Biden from winning the state in 2020.
Mr. Trump has supported the effort to decertify in Wisconsin and backed Mr. Mastriano at the last minute. The former president has tied his support, which is the most important stamp of approval in Republican politics, to spreading false information about the election.
When they get into office, Trump-backed candidates are likely to try to keep their promises to change election law. In some cases, this could mean making it harder to vote, while in others, it could mean giving Republican-controlled state legislatures the power to change election results.
In Pennsylvania, Kathy Barnette, who went to a rally on January 6 and made a lot of false claims about stolen elections and ran on a slate with Mr. Mastriano, got about 25 percent of the vote and came in third in the state's GOP Senate primary.
Dr. Mehmet Oz and David McCormick, who are tied for first place, have also cast doubt on the 2020 election results by refusing to say that Mr. Biden won fairly.
Dr. Oz, who was backed by Mr. Trump, said in his campaign speech, "We can't leave 2020 behind," but he didn't explain what he meant by that.
During an interview with the conservative network Real America's Voice on Monday, Dr. Oz was asked if he thought the election had been fixed or stolen. He said he couldn't say either of those things. He instead said that he hoped a Republican governor would look into the 2020 election and change the state's laws about voting.
He said, "There are so many questions." "We have to figure out the different ways people have cheated."
In interviews before Pennsylvania's primary, Republican voters said a lot of false things about the election and said they wanted their nominees to pass new voting laws once they were in office.
Mike Ackelson, 57, was outside a gun store in Butler County, just north of Pittsburgh. He said, "Voter fraud is by far the biggest problem." Mr. Ackelson, a local sportscaster, said he was sure Mr. Trump had won the 2020 election because early vote counts on election night were in his favor, even though votes are usually counted for hours or even days after polls close.
"How can someone gain so much weight so quickly?" Mr. Ackelson said. "I'm sick of all the rumors about what's been going on."
But this could happen again in Pennsylvania's Senate primary, where votes are counted. Dr. Oz was ahead of Mr. McCormick by about 2,500 votes as of Wednesday morning. But Mr. McCormick's campaign is sure he will win, even though there are still tens of thousands of votes to be counted.
As he has in the past, Mr. Trump doesn't want to wait until one candidate has a clear advantage over the others before calling a winner. On Wednesday, he told Dr. Oz that he had won and that he should move on. "It makes it much harder for them to cheat with the ballots they 'just happened to find,'" Mr. Trump wrote on Truth Social, his social media site.
Even though Mr. Mastriano was against the election and wanted to make it harder to vote, Pennsylvania Democrats tried to help him run for office. This could be a risky move. He has said that he wants to end "no-excuse absentee voting" in the state, appoint a secretary of state who will focus on preventing election fraud, hire more poll watchers in Pennsylvania, pass a law that requires all voters to show ID, and end the state's contracts with companies that make voting machines.
Josh Shapiro, the state's attorney general who ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination for governor, spent more than $530,000 on a single TV ad to boost the far-right Republican's standing with the GOP base. This is more than Mr. Mastriano spent on TV during his entire campaign.
The ad says, "He wants to end voting by mail, and he was the leader of the fight to audit the 2020 election." "If Mastriano wins, it will be a win for what Donald Trump stands for."
Many political observers, including some worried Republicans, see Mr. Mastriano as an underdog compared to Mr. Shapiro, who has more money. However, the current environment is much better for the GOP, and Mr. Biden's low approval ratings hurt Democrats all over the country.
In North Carolina, Mr. Budd questioned the 2020 election results after the attack on the Capitol on January 6. He started his campaign by saying that Mr. Biden's win was "legitimate." After a year of the primary campaign and after Mr. Trump gave him his support, he went back on his word and said on Tuesday that he had "constitutional concerns about 2020."
Even Republican candidates who don't believe in the most extreme ideas about changing the results of past elections are playing politics with those who do.
Rebecca Kleefisch, a former Wisconsin lieutenant governor and the Republican establishment's choice for governor in the state's August primary, has changed her mind since last year, when she said that Joe Biden had won the state's contest fairly.
By February, she said she didn't know if Mr. Biden had won and she didn't know if she would have certified the state's 2020 results. In late April, when she had three primary opponents running to her right, Ms. Kleefisch said, "I feel like it was rigged."