Frances Duncan, former elections director, dies

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Frances S. Duncan, Georgia’s first elections director and a widely respected authority on state election issues, died Monday at 82.  The Fayetteville resident had been diagnosed with cancer several months ago.

Duncan’s funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday at Southwest Christian Church in East Point.  Interment will follow at College Park Cemetery.

Duncan began working for Secretary of State Ben Fortson as a capitol tour guide in 1964.  Forston appointed her the state’s first fulltime elections director in 1967 after changes in the elections law shifted more responsibilities for qualifying candidates and certifying election results to the secretary of state’s office.

She initially turned down the job, then took the position on a trial basis.  Duncan went on to serve as elections director until her retirement in December 1988, gaining a widespread reputation as one of the most knowledgeable persons on Georgia election laws and issues.

Secretary of State Max Cleland established the Frances Duncan Award in 1988 to recognize  county election and voter registration officials for outstanding accomplishments in their fields.

After Duncan retired as elections director, she was appointed to the State Elections Board by House Speaker Tom Murphy and served as a board member for 16 years.

“She was elegant, but feisty – and when she spoke in that quiet but firm voice, even the most hot-headed person at Election Board meetings listened and accepted whatever she said,” said former secretary of state Cathy Cox, who’s now the president of Young Harris College.

“She was passionate about carrying out elections in this state with absolute integrity – there was never an ounce of bias or partisanship in her work or her viewpoint,” Cox said. “She committed her lifetime to this work and we’re all better off because she did.”

© 2010 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Ben Fortson , Cathy Cox , Frances Duncan , Max Cleland