Inaugural Tickets: Past Practices and Considerations for 2021

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Updated December 22, 2020
Inaugural Tickets: Past Practices and Considerations for 2021
Since the 20th Amendment was ratified, the oath of office
process of attendees finding their seating or standing
for President of the United States has been administered
locations, the JCCIC and the United States Capitol Police
every four years on January 20. The next presidential
(USCP) have jointly issued a map of ticketed areas showing
inauguration is scheduled to take place on January 20,
color-coded sections that correspond to tickets. The map
has also included instructions on entering the secured area
around the Capitol. Figure 1 shows the 2017 Inauguration
Ceremonies Map and Guidelines.
On March 4, 1801, Thomas Jef erson became the first
President to be inaugurated at the U.S. Capitol in
Figure 1. 2017 Inauguration Ceremonies Map
Washington, D.C., in a room now known as the “Old
Supreme Court Chamber.” In 1829, Andrew Jackson
became the first President to be inaugurated on the East
Front of the Capitol, where the majority of swearing-in
ceremonies continued to take place until the late
twentieth century. It was not until President Ronald
Reagan’s inauguration on January 20, 1981, that the
swearing-in ceremony moved to the West Front of the
Capitol where larger crowds could be accommodated.

Sen. Mitch McConnel , Congressional Record,

(October 11, 2000), p. S10267

The move to the West Front of the Capitol not only
accommodated larger crowds who could view the ceremony
from the Capitol grounds, but also allowed for use of the
National Mall. Additionally, the Architect of the Capitol
has been able to build a larger platform on the West Front,
which in recent years has accommodated more than 1,600

For the 2021 swearing-in ceremony, the Joint
Source: U.S. Capitol Police, “Inaugural Ceremonies-Map and
Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies
Guidance,” press release, January 12, 2017,
(JCCIC) has announced that as a result of COVID-19 the
in-person audience will be reduced to a size that “resembles
the State of the Union,” with congressional attendance
limited to Members of Congress and one guest. Given the
Ticket Allocation
limited in-person attendance at the ceremony, the JCCIC is
For past inaugurations, the JCCIC has allocated tickets to
“working on enhanced opportunities to watch the
congressional offices. Allocated tickets were generally a
ceremonies online, in addition to the traditional televised
combination of seated tickets—on the inaugural platform
national broadcast.”
and areas closest to the West Front of the Capitol—and
standing tickets, which were often behind the seated tickets.
Historical Inaugural Tickets
As depicted in Figure 1, in 2017, seated tickets were
As the host of the inauguration, the House and Senate
located on the inaugural platform and in the yellow and
jointly appoint the JCCIC every four years. The JCCIC is
green sections. Standing tickets were located in the non-
primarily responsible for arranging and hosting the
numbered yellow, green, blue, orange, red, and gray/silver
swearing-in ceremony and an inaugural luncheon.
areas. Areas beyond these locations were not ticketed and
were generally open to the public for viewing on large
To accommodate both Members of Congress and
constituents who might be interested in attending the
swearing-in ceremony in person, the JCCIC has
Ticket Distribution
traditionally authorized seated and standing sections on the
For previous inaugurations, the JCCIC allocated tickets to
inaugural platform, the U.S. Capitol grounds, and the
each Member office. Each Representative or Senator then
National Mall to accommodate attendees. To ease the
determined ticket allocation and distribution. In total, the

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Inaugural Tickets: Past Practices and Considerations for 2021
JCCIC traditionally distributed approximately 200,000
chill of -10°F to -20°F at noon, the constitutionally
specified time for the beginning of the new presidential
term). Figure 3 shows President Reagan’s second public
For 2021, the JCCIC intends to issue commemorative ticket
inauguration ceremony in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.
packets for distribution to Member offices after the
swearing-in ceremony. Figure 2 shows an example of a
Figure 3. President Ronald Reagan’s 1985 Public
ticket issued for President John F. Kennedy’s 1961
Inauguration Ceremony
Figure 2. 1961 Inaugural Ceremony Ticket

Source: Library of Congress, Fish-eye view of the rotunda in the U.S.
Source: U.S. Congress, Senate, “1961 Inauguration Ceremony,” at
Capitol, just prior to the swearing-in ceremony of Ronald Reagan.
Washington, DC, 1985. Photograph.

Considerations for the 2021 Inauguration Security
As Inauguration Day draws nearer, in addition to the
The USCP, along with the United States Secret Service
limited in-person attendance and Member offices’
(USSS) and other federal law enforcement agencies,
commemorative ticket distribution, several other
provides security for the inauguration. The USSS is the lead
considerations might be relevant for the 2021 Inauguration.
federal law enforcement agency, as authorized by P.L. 106-
These include COVID-19 and security.
544, and provides security for the President-elect (and
current President, for inaugurations involving a transition)
and coordinates the event as a National Special Security
The JCCIC has announced that “due to the global pandemic
Event (NSSE). The USCP provides policing and security
... [it] is committed to traditional, inclusive, and safe
for Members of Congress and around the Capitol Building.
ceremonies and will continue to monitor the situation and
provide information to all Members as it comes available.”
For the 2021 Inauguration, USCP has set up a security
On December 16, 2020, the JCCIC announced that “The
perimeter around the West Front of the Capitol in
JCCIC, in consultation with diversified public health and
preparation for the swearing-in ceremony. Additionally, on
medical experts and the Presidential Inaugural Committee,
Inauguration Day, streets around the Capitol Complex are
has determined that this global pandemic and the rise in
generally closed and access to Capitol Hill buildings is
COVID-19 cases warranted a difficult decision to limit
attendance at the 59th Inaugural Ceremonies to a live
audience that resembles a State of the Union,”
This InFocus will be updated as circumstances warrant.
Historically, inauguration plans at times have been
For more information on the Inauguration, see CRS Report
adjusted. For example, when January 20 falls on a Sunday,
R42603, Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural
public ceremonies have historically been moved to
Ceremonies: History, Membership, and Inaugural
Monday, January 21, with the President-elect sworn in
Activities; and CRS Report R42867, Inauguration Security:
during a private ceremony at noon on January 20. Further,
Operations, Appropriations, and Issues for Congress.
in 1985, for President Ronald Reagan’s second
inauguration, January 20 fell on a Sunday and the public
Jacob R. Straus, Specialist on the Congress
ceremony was scheduled for the West Front of the Capitol
on Monday, January 21. The January 21 ceremony,
however, was moved indoors to the Capitol Rotunda
because of freezing weather (an estimated 7°F, with a wind

Inaugural Tickets: Past Practices and Considerations for 2021

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