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We propose a compact and low-cost design for a variable wave plate using tunable form-birefringent grating structures in polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). The described device operates through PDMS deformation via electrostatically actuated transparent electrodes. The optical and mechanical properties of tunable form-birefringent structures are modeled using birefringence, rigorous coupled-wave analysis, and simple structural mechanics theory. The device is fabricated by a form of soft nanoimprint lithography. The optical properties are characterized for different structure geometries. Operating principles were verified through testing of the completed device. The experimental results and theoretical study show that an irregular grating structure performs better than a periodic subwavelength structure. [2007-0303].