Heard on the Hill

Inaugural Tickets Going Fast

Workers continue to put the finishing touches on the stands at the Capitol for Obama’s inauguration Jan. 21. Norton said District residents have been clamoring for tickets to the swearing-in ceremony. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

Hey, members of Congress: Got any extra tickets to President Barack Obama’s inauguration laying around?

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s office has been “besieged” by District residents calling in the hopes of scoring tickets to the official swearing-in ceremony on the National Mall on Jan. 21, and she’s hoping her colleagues can spare some of their extras. “Our offices have been besieged by phone calls for tickets to the inauguration … my office perhaps more than others because my constituents reside in the home city of the White House and Congress,” Norton wrote in an email to her colleagues.

The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies doles out tickets to all 535 member offices, and those offices are free to distribute those tickets in whichever way they please, JCCIC Communications Director Matt House said. House declined to comment on how many tickets were made available to members of Congress to hand out or how many tickets each office received.

Because Norton is the only representative for D.C. residents — albeit without the ability to vote for their interests — her office is the only place for them to turn for tickets to the 57th inaugural ceremony. This means there are likely fewer tickets to go around for the approximately 600,000 District residents than most other similar jurisdictions, which have senators they can appeal to.

Many members have set up ticket lotteries on their constituent websites to hand out their allotment, whereas others have thought up creative ways to distribute their bounty.

Rep. Michael M. Honda launched a contest for his constituents to win the tickets he’s been given. The California Democrat’s constituents must write a paragraph, submit a video or draw a picture that depicts an “innovative idea either to put Americans back to work or ensure that each and every child has access to a quality education.”

Honda held a similar contest for his ticket allotment for the 2009 inaugural ceremony.

“Based on the success of that inaugural ticket giveaway, I’m going back to my constituents for more creative ideas that can again inspire legislation. … I believe constituents should have multiple avenues for sharing their ideas with their congressperson and look forward to this innovative exchange,” Honda said.

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