Was Larry David in the Buffer Zone?

At the end of the first episode of the final season of Curb Your Enthusiasm (spoiler alert!), Larry David gets arrested in Atlanta after handing a water bottle to a voter in line at a polling place. I’ve spent time working on voting rights in Georgia and my first thought was, “Oh I would love to defend this case.” My second thought was, “Wait, did Larry actually break the law?”

What was Larry David even doing at a polling place in Atlanta?

Before getting into whether Larry broke the law, here’s some background on how Larry ended up at a polling place in Atlanta in the first place:

In the first episode of the final season of Curb Your Enthusiasm (which aired on February 4, 2024), Larry David takes what should be a quick trip to Atlanta to make a paid appearance at a fan’s birthday party. Larry’s friend Leon comes with him to Atlanta, and together they visit Leon’s aunt, Auntie Rae. While they’re visiting Auntie Rae, she tries on—and stretches out—Larry’s glasses. She lends Larry another pair, which he agrees to return to her before he leaves Atlanta.

On his way to the airport, Larry makes a pit stop to return the glasses. Auntie Rae is in line to vote, so Larry meets her in line at her polling place. They both complain about the heat and Auntie Rae laments that she’s been in line for over two and half hours. Larry offers her a bottle of water, runs to his car to grab a bottle of Evian, then gives it to Auntie Rae. Seconds later, Larry is arrested.

Police officers tell Larry he is under arrest for violation of the Election Integrity Act. They tell him it is illegal for anyone in Georgia to provide food or water to voters in line at the polls.

Is that really the law in Georgia?

Sort of. The Election Integrity Act that the police officers referenced is also known as Georgia Senate Bill 202, which became law on March 15, 2021. The law contains a series of election provisions. The one relevant to Larry is the part that bans “line warming,” which is the practice of providing things like food and water to people in line.

Specifically, the law states:

(a) No person shall…give, offer to give, or participate in the giving of any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink, to an elector…or establish or set up any tables or booths on any day in which ballots are being cast:

(1) Within 150 feet of the outer edge of any building within which a polling place is established;

(2) Within any polling place; or

(3) Within 25 feet of any voter standing in line to vote at any polling place.

In short, according to Georgia Senate Bill 202, it is illegal in Georgia to give water to someone in line to vote.

So Larry broke the law, right?

Not exactly. In August 2023, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia ruled in In re Georgia Senate Bill 202 that parts of the Election Integrity Act cannot be enforced for 2024 elections.

In re Georgia Senate Bill 202 challenged the ban on “line warming.” In reaching its decision, the Court parsed the “line warming” provision into two parts—(1) the “Buffer Zone” and (2) the “Supplemental Zone.” The “Buffer Zone” is anywhere “[w]ithin 150 feet of the outer edge of any building within which a polling place is established,” and the “Supplemental Zone” is within 25 feet of any voter standing in line to vote at any polling place, i.e., anywhere more than 150 feet from a polling place.

For the 2024 election, the Court granted a preliminary injunction banning any enforcement of penalties for violations in the Supplemental Zone. But, the ban on “line warming” in the Buffer Zone was upheld.

What does this mean for Larry?

Where exactly was Auntie Rae standing when Larry gave her the water bottle? Was she within 150 feet of the polling place and therefore in the Buffer Zone? If so, Larry may have a problem. Or was she more than 150 feet from the polling place, and therefore in the Supplemental Zone? If so, Larry has a solid defense.

Larry (without a lawyer – not recommended!) pleads not guilty at the end of the second episode, hinting that perhaps a trial might be coming in a future episode. An episode that drills into the Buffer Zone versus the Supplemental Zone in a way only Larry David could sounds pretttty, pretttty, pretttty good to me.

February 15, 2024