The Honorable Justice McMORROW delivered the opinion of the court.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mcmorrow
JUSTICE McMORROW delivered the opinion of the court:
The question presented in this appeal is whether an individual sheet of a nominating petition which is filed pursuant to section 7-10 of the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/7-10 (West 1994)) is rendered invalid if the address set forth within the circulator's affidavit at the bottom of the petition sheet does not match the address where the circulator of the sheet is registered to vote. The fifth district of the appellate court answered this question affirmatively. *fn1 278 Ill. App. 3d 163, 662 N.E.2d 627, 215 Ill. Dec. 1. We granted leave to appeal (155 Ill. 2d R. 315) and now reverse the judgment of the appellate court.
On December 11, 1995, Ronald P. "Rink" Lucas (Lucas) filed a nominating petition seeking to have his name placed on the ballot for the March 19, 1996, Democratic primary for the office of Madison County recorder. The nominating petition consisted of 20 individual sheets containing a total of 330 signatures. Two hundred fifty-five valid signatures were required to secure a position on the primary election ballot.
On December 22, 1995, L. Thomas Lakin (Lakin) filed an objector's petition (see 10 ILCS 5/10-8 (West 1994)) in which he contested the validity of numerous signatures on Lucas' nominating petition and asserted that there was an insufficient number of valid signatures remaining on the petition to warrant placing Lucas' name on the primary election ballot. In the portion of the objector's petition relevant here, Lakin alleged that the circulator of the first sheet of Lucas' nominating petition, Aaron Wanagat (Wanagat), was not registered to vote at the address listed in the circulator's affidavit on that sheet. Thus, according to Lakin, Wanagat was not a valid circulator and the sheet, which contained 20 signatures, had to be stricken in its entirety.
On January 9, 1996, the Madison County officers electoral board (the Board) held a hearing pursuant to section 10-9 of the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/10-9 (West 1994)) to consider Lakin's objections. In a written decision issued on January 11, 1996, the Board found, inter alia, that Wanagat was a registered voter of Madison County. However, the Board also found that Wanagat was registered to vote at an address other than the one listed in the circulator's affidavit on the petition sheet. The Board ruled that Wanagat was therefore not a valid circulator and that the first sheet of Lucas' nominating petition was void. As a result of this ruling, and others made by the Board, Lucas' nominating petition had only 244 valid signatures-11 short of the 255 required. Accordingly, the Board ordered that Lucas' name not appear on the ballot for the primary election.
Lucas sought judicial review of the Board's decision in the circuit court of Madison County. See 10 ILCS 5/10-10.1 (West 1994). Following a hearing held on February 2, 1996, the circuit court entered judgment reversing the Board's decision regarding the validity of the first petition sheet. The circuit court based its judgment on two appellate court decisions, Bass v. Hamblet, 266 Ill. App. 3d 1110, 204 Ill. Dec. 55, 641 N.E.2d 14 (1st Dist. 1994), and Whelan v. County Officers' Electoral Board, 256 Ill. App. 3d 555, 196 Ill. Dec. 297, 629 N.E.2d 842 (2d Dist. 1994). Both of these decisions held that the relevant provisions of the Election Code do not require that the address in the circulator's affidavit match the address where the circulator is registered to vote. Because the circuit court's ruling restored 20 signatures to Lucas' petition, the court ordered that Lucas' name be placed on the primary election ballot.
Lakin appealed from the circuit court's judgment and, after expedited review, the appellate court reversed the circuit court and affirmed the original decision of the Board. The appellate court expressly declined to follow Whelan and Bass, concluding that those opinions were too restrictive in their reading of the pertinent sections of the Election Code. The appellate court's mandate was issued along with its opinion on March 14, 1996. On Lucas' motion, this court stayed the appellate court's mandate pending consideration of Lucas' petition for leave to appeal. On March 19, 1996, the primary election took place. Lucas appeared on the ballot and lost the election.
We observe, at the outset, that while the primary election which is at the heart of this appeal has already been held, this cause is not moot. One exception to the mootness doctrine permits a court to resolve an otherwise moot issue if that issue concerns a substantial public interest. This public interest exception may be applied if (1) the question presented is of a public nature, (2) an authoritative resolution of the question is desirable for the purpose of guiding public officers, and (3) the question is likely to recur. Bonaguro v. County Officers Electoral Board, 158 Ill. 2d 391, 395, 199 Ill. Dec. 659, 634 N.E.2d 712 (1994). The instant appeal raises a question of election law which, inherently, is a matter of public concern. In addition, as noted above, the issue before us has created a split of authority in our appellate court. Resolution of the question presented in this appeal is therefore necessary, as the issue will likely arise again in future elections. Accordingly, we reach the merits in this cause.
The facts in this case are not in dispute. At some time prior to circulating the first sheet of Lucas' nominating petition, Wanagat moved from the Madison County address where he was registered to vote to another address located within Madison County. When he moved, Wanagat inadvertently failed to transfer his voter registration to his new address. Subsequently, when asked to provide his address in the circulator's affidavit at the bottom of the petition sheet he was circulating, Wanagat simply listed, without any intent to deceive or mislead, his new Madison County address. The sole issue which the parties contest is whether, under these facts, the relevant provisions of the Election Code require that the petition sheet which Wanagat circulated be declared invalid.
When construing the meaning of a disputed statute, this court's primary objective is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the legislature. People v. Zaremba, 158 Ill. 2d 36, 40, 196 Ill. Dec. 632, 630 N.E.2d 797 (1994). Legislative intent is best determined by examining the statutory language, which must be given its plain and ordinary meaning. People v. Tucker, 167 Ill. 2d 431, 435, 212 Ill. Dec. 664, 657 N.E.2d 1009 (1995). Because the construction of a statute is a question of law, our review is de novo. Vuletich v. United States Steel Corp., 117 Ill. 2d 417, 421, 111 Ill. Dec. 586, 512 N.E.2d 1223 (1987).
Section 7-10 of the Election Code sets out the requirements for nominating petitions filed on behalf of political parties in primary elections. The section states that the ...