Montgomery is Pennsylvania's second-richest and third-most-populous county. The municipality holds another distinction: It has more legislative representatives than any other in the state. Indeed, per capita it has more elected officials than most counties in the nation.
Montgomery County has almost 800,000 residents. With each state congressional district comprising nearly 706,000, logically Montgomery should have two members in the U.S. House of Representatives.
But logic has nothing do with the decennial party game known as redistricting now in play, and by party, we mean Republicans sticking it to Democrats once again. (Rest assured, this is pure partisan politics. If Democrats were in charge, they would be doing the same thing to Republicans.)
Instead, Montgomery is represented by six U.S. House members, yet only one - Allyson Schwartz - resides in the county. The county's legislative map is so gerrymandered, it looks as if it was attacked by paramecia. Philadelphia, with almost twice the population, has a mere four representatives.
Montgomery County also has a high number of state senators - seven, only four of whom are residents. The county also has 17 members in the General Assembly.
You might think there is power in numbers. But you would be wrong.
Gerrymandering "was done to limit Democratic leadership. The Republicans were hell-bent on exercising partisan leadership; the plan undermined the community and their constituency," says State Rep. Josh Shapiro, who is running to become the first Democratic County Commissioner chairman in 13 decades.
Because five congressmen's districts are based largely in other counties, they don't visit Montco often, argues Democratic commissioner and former Congressman Joe Hoeffel. "Allyson represents more of the county than anyone else, but not the county seat of Norristown, which has lots of federal needs."
Montco's electoral rolls are almost equally divided - 45 percent Democratic, 40 percent Republican, and 15 percent independent. Yet through redistricting, the county is represented by four Republicans.
As in 2001, the GOP controls all of Harrisburg and gets to exercise creative cartography in redrawing district maps. Pennsylvania will lose another House member next year, because of the most recent census, and will shrink from 19 to 18.
A decade ago, Republicans showed such a gift for prestidigitation, they were able to flip the delegation from 12 Democrats and seven Republicans, to 12 Republicans and seven Dems. (The Dems would have done the same thing, as they have in Illinois.) That division switched for two terms - voter dissatisfaction with the ruling party will do that - but again holds true. State Republicans are set on eliminating another Democrat, most likely pitting incumbents Jason Altmire and Mark Critz against each other in the Southwest.
So perhaps Montgomery County will be represented more reasonably?
Uh, no. "This map is going to be just as ruthless," says Cook Political Report's David Wasserman. "The Republicans are trying to shore up power." The map will be drawn so that the GOP retains its districts.
The irony is that, with so much turnover in the delegation, and districts being redrawn and moving like legislative Brigadoons, the state gains less cumulative clout in Washington. No one is arguing for another Jack Murtha, another King of Pork. But, aside from freshman Sen. Pat Toomey's assignment to the bipartisan "supercommittee" on debt reduction, Pennsylvania "doesn't have a lot of people with seniority and powerful positions," says political historian G. Terry Madonna.
"These are not names that jump out at you," says Washington congressional expert Stuart Rothenberg. "It's not a highly regarded delegation."
Shapiro argues that "redistricting needs to be compact and contiguous, and people need to put aside their political partisanship, which really hurts the county."
Hah! Having worked in Harrisburg and Washington, Shapiro should know better.
Chris Borick, director of Muhlenberg College's Institute of Public Opinion, dreams of precisely the opposite: "If the GOP gets greedy and tries to protect all 12 of its seats - or, better yet, attempts to increase its share of the pie - the state's voters may get the gift of more robust congressional races."
True, but Pennsylvania would have even less clout and voice, while wealthy, populous Montgomery County would still have too much representation for its own good.