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Seeking Another Winning Ticket

New Color-Coded Passes Designed for Security -- and Elegance

By Timothy Dwyer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 9, 2005; Page C01

Inauguration tickets, redesigned for the first time in more than 60 years for security reasons and to make them easier to use, will be removed tomorrow from a locked vault in the Capitol and distributed to members of Congress.

The 250,000 tickets -- white with borders that are color-coded in vibrant shades of blue, red, green, yellow and gold -- are embedded with several security features to prevent counterfeiting and to simplify authenticating them at entrance points.

Crews continue to work on the Capitol grounds area where President Bush's inauguration will be staged. A quarter-million tickets are being issued. (Dennis Cook -- AP)

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Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, which organizes the Jan. 20 swearing in, said the committee designed tickets that are secure, informative and attractive enough so people will want to frame them.

"We want this to be, obviously, the best security in history," Lott said in an interview in his office, "but we want it to be the least obtrusive security that could possibly happen at this event. I really think this time we are going to have more security and less hassle for the quarter of a million people who are going to attend this event."

Each ticket has a map of the Capitol on the back that details spectator areas and streets, and provides instructions about the best Metro station to use to get to the seating or standing-room area that corresponds to the color on the ticket.

"We don't want a quarter-million people coming here and asking law enforcement people, 'Where do I go?' " said Matt McGowan, director of ticketing for the committee. "The tickets are self-explanatory. And there will be big banners and signs and they will all be color-coordinated; blue tickets go this way, green tickets go this way. That has never been done before."

McGowan was sitting at a conference table in the Russell Senate Office Building alongside Jerry Hammond, superintendent of the Government Printing Office's congressional publishing service. They have worked together on the tickets for nearly a year. The same tickets would have been used no matter who won the election.

"I didn't look at this as work," Hammond said. "I looked at it as fun. This was a really neat thing to do, to be able to participate in this and also have a part in making it, in my opinion, the best inauguration ever, at least as far as the printing aspects of it. We have done things this time that have never been done in the past."

In addition to changing how the tickets look, Hammond and the printing office devised high-tech security measures to protect the integrity of the tickets. He said the printing office and the committee used some security aspects of passport printing and incorporated at least one feature of the recently redesigned $20 bills. But he said the tickets also are embedded with some security features never before used, which he said he could not discuss.

Lott, a self-described history buff who said he spent at least part of his holiday break reading Andrew Jackson's "indecipherable and boring" inaugural address, said he has enjoyed helping to design the inaugural's tickets, invitations and programs.

"My staff and I, and even my wife, have paid very close attention to all the details," he said. "Things like the borders, even the script, have all been looked at -- at different type sets and sizes. But the thing I am most proud of is the tickets. . . . The good thing about [the color-coded ticket] is that it will help with security and it will also make the whole thing make more sense and more convenient for the people who are attending."

Hammond said that it took about two months to print the tickets and that the job was completed by late summer. Once McGowan delivered the tickets to the Capitol, staff members and volunteers counted the tickets by hand, recounted them, broke them down into smaller bundles for distribution and then locked them in the vault, he said.

Each House member receives 200 tickets and each senator gets 400, McGowan said. Members of Congress are free to distribute tickets to constituents. Last week, 61,000 tickets were delivered to the Presidential Inaugural Committee for the president and vice president. In addition, McGowan said, the joint congressional committee will issue tickets to the Supreme Court, Joints Chief of Staff, the diplomatic corps, all presidential electors and all Medal of Honor recipients.

Last week, workers began placing 40,000 seats on the lawn in front of the west side of the Capitol. About 110,000 standing-room tickets will be issued for the lawn and an additional 100,000 standing-room tickets for the Mall.

There are no assigned seats on the lawn; they will be filled on a first-come basis. The gates will open at 9 a.m. Committee staff members said those planning to attend should get there as early as possible and should be sure to know which items are prohibited.

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