See more of the story

A legal challenge targeting new absentee voting rules is headed to the Minnesota Supreme Court ahead of the November election.

Minnesota has made a number of changes for this year’s elections, including waiving the witness signature requirement for mail-in ballots. That shift was the result of a consent decree reached between Secretary of State Steve Simon and plaintiffs in a lawsuit who argued the witness requirement would make voting too hard during the coronavirus pandemic.

A Ramsey County judge signed off on the agreement earlier this month. Several Republican groups, including President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, have appealed that ruling. Republicans say the deal violates a legislative agreement on election changes and want the signature requirement to stand for the November election.

Chief Justice Lorie Gildea announced the decision Wednesday to expedite consideration of the case ahead of early voting. Oral arguments are scheduled Sept. 3, two weeks before early and absentee voting for the general election begins.

Election officials are bracing for a spike in mail-in ballots for the general election as more voters try to avoid potentially crowded polling places and in-person contact. More than 530,000 Minnesotans voted absentee in the Aug. 11 primary, a huge increase from previous years.